| Kombu can be used to create delicious clear soups and cooling pressed salads, as well as hearty stews and bean dishes. In most recipes kombu need not be soaked before use. When soaking is called for, merely soak the kombu until it softens and opens up. The nutritious soaking water can be used in the recipe, or reserved and used at a later time in soups or stews.
Kombu's most common and important use is in the preparation of dashi, Japan's multipurpose stock for soups, stews, and sauces. Dashi appears simple, but it is integral to Japanese cooking, since it is the first step in many traditional dishes. The flavor and quality of the stock help determine the taste of the finished dish. Kombu is also good when sliced and used in soups, stews, and vegetable and bean dishes. When cooking beans, the addition of kombu is particularly recommended because it helps soften the beans, reduces cooking time, and makes them easier to digest. The Japanese commonly use kombu to enhance the flavor of the brine or mash that is used to marinate various types of pickles. Sometimes, the kombu itself is one of the ingredients to be pickled. Kombu can also be cooked in a seasoned broth, wrapped around pieces of burdock or other vegetables, and then served as hors d'oeuvres.
A nutritious condiment can be made by roasting kombu then grinding it to a powder. First, cut the kombu into small pieces and place in an unoiled skillet over medium heat. Stir the kombu pieces constantly until they become very crisp. Transfer the roasted kombu pieces into a bowl or a suribachi (Japanese grinding bowl), and grind the kombu into a fine powder. Add this powder as a seasoning to soups, or sprinkle it over grains and vegetable dishes before serving.