*Kombu* (also spelled *konbu*) is the Japanese name for several species of dried, brown, edible kelp of the Laminaria genus—most famous for its use in the soup stock [dashi](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/dashi-explained). Kombu thrives in cold water and primarily grows off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan. You can find kombu—known as *haidai* in Chinese and *dasima* in Korean—at most Asian grocery stores and health food stores.\n\nKombu has been used as an all-purpose flavoring in Japan for more than a thousand years. It wasn't until the early twentieth century that Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda found that kombu is exceptionally high in monosodium glutamate (MSG). Based on his kombu and MSG research, Ikeda identified the fifth flavor, [umami](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-umami-learn-about-umami-and-how-to-incorporate-umami-flavors-in-your-cooking)\nThere are multiple species of *kombu*, each with a unique flavor and culinary purpose. Some of the most widely available include:\n\n1. __*Karafuto* kombu (*Laminaria saccharina*)__: The presence of the sugar alcohol mannitol in this type of kombu creates a sweet flavor.\n2. __*Ma* kombu (*Laminaria japonica*)__: This thick, wide kombu yields a clear broth.\n3. __*Mitsuishi* kombu (*Laminaria angustata*)__: This type is also known as dashi-kombu because it is commonly used to make dashi.\n4. __*Rishiri* kombu (*Laminaria ochotensis*)__: Named after the island Rishiri off the coast of Hokkaido, this kombu is thin and ruffled.\nKombu adds umami flavor to many Japanese foods, including:\n\n1. __Kombu dashi__: This soup stock serves as a backbone of Japanese cooking and is made from kombu, *katsuobushi* ([bonito flakes](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/bonito-flakes-explained)), and sometimes [shiitake mushrooms](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-use-shiitake-mushrooms-in-your-everyday-cooking). It forms the base of [miso soup](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/authentic-japanese-miso-soup-recipe), hot pots, noodle bowls, and more.\n2. __Seaweed salad__: Adding thinly sliced kombu to seaweed salad creates a thick, meaty texture.\n3. __*Tsukudani*__: Kombu pickled in soy sauce can be eaten as a snack or used as a condiment.\nJapanese cuisine makes frequent use of different types of seaweed. \n\n__Nori__: Use thin, crisp sheets of nori to wrap sushi and onigiri. Nori is much more pliable than kombu and does not need to be cooked or rehydrated before using.\n__Wakame__: Use the wrinkly, dry strips of wakame in soups, or rehydrate them for seaweed salads. Wakame is more textured than kombu and has a shorter cook time.\n__Arame and *hijiki*__: These seaweed types look like strands of loose-leaf black tea and are rehydrated for use in salads. Due to their wispy texture, they’re not a good substitute for kombu.\nBecome a better chef with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Niki Nakayama, Gabriela Cámara, Chef Thomas Keller, Yotam Ottolenghi, Dominique Ansel, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.\nKonbu is a type of dried seaweed that serves as a flavor enhancer.