Aonori (青のり) is an unusual Japanese spice. The name means "green nori", nori in turn being a type of seaweed (Porphyra spp.) best known as the wrapping of sushi rolls. However, despite the name and what many Japanese themselves think, aonori is in fact a different plant entirely, namely various species of Enteromorpha.

Aonori has a distinctive, strong smell, something between cut grass and vinegar, and the taste is more of the same, only different and more seaweed-y. It is sold in two forms, threadlike ito aonori -- the more common type, to the extent that the "ito" is usually dropped from the name -- and powdered aonoriko, both made from the dried plant. Both are used sparingly as a seasoning on ready food, and are (as far as I know) never cooked with the dish itself.

The two top uses without a doubt for aonori are yakisoba, Japanese fried noodles, and okonomiyaki, a delicious type of Japanese omelette/pancake/pizza/somethingalongthoselines. Omitting aonori from either one of these will change the taste quite a bit: alas, sensei's otherwise excellent recipe for okonomiyaki suggests using basil instead, which entirely fails to taste like aonori. About the only other aonori-obligatory recipe I can think of is tororoten, a bizarre (and, frankly, rather bad-tasting) Japanese dessert of translucent yam noodles with soy and aonori. However, due to its distinctive dark green color and fresh scent, aonori is not infrequently found sprinkled atop all sorts of food. Aonori is also often used in the Japanese spice blend shichimi-togarashi.

Last but definitely not least, aonori has found an unlikely new use in a marriage with Western cuisine: aonori potato chips! These are downright addictive, and exploitation of the synergy between aonori and deep-fried potato soon led to the invention of aonori french fries, now available even at McDonalds (in Japan, that is).

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