British Columbia·Forage & Feast

B.C. diver harvests bull kelp for his take on a Hawaiian favourite

While exploring the coast of Vancouver Island, free diver and spear fisherman Andrew Chin wasn't able to catch any fish but found something else instead: bull kelp. A locally harvested kelp that he uses to make a popular Hawaiian snack.

Andrew Chin makes a bull kelp tsukudani umsubi with local kelp found on the coast of Vancouver Island

Andrew Chin harvests bull kelp off the coast of Vancouver Island to serve up his take on musubi, a popular Hawaiian snack. (Forage & Feast/CBC)

Forage & Feast is a series following B.C. diver, photographer and spear fisherman Andrew Chin as explores his home province, while reconnecting with his Asian heritage through food.


While exploring the coast of Vancouver Island, free diver and spear fisherman Andrew Chin wasn't able to catch any fish but found something else instead: bull kelp. 

It was the first time Chin had dove through kelp forests on the coast of B.C. and he called the experience "other-worldly."

"I actually haven't dove kelp forests before, and it's something that's been on a bucket list for me for awhile now," Chin told North By Northwest. 

"We were diving through some hazy water and you have all these beautiful fronds and the stocks growing and all the light shining through."

Andrew Chin explores the kelp forests off the coast of Vancouver Island for the first time. (Forage & Feast/CBC)

The Port Coquitlam native has been exploring the coast of the Pacific Northwest through free diving after picking up the sport in Hawaii — a place where he has spent most of his adult life. 

"I think it's the ultimate Zen sport," he said.

"In today's world, we have so many things going on. We live very fast-paced lives and with free diving you can't dive unless you're very relaxed."

Even though he came up short during his spear fishing session, Chin harvested some of the bull kelp to make musubi, a staple Hawaiian snack. 

Similar to a big sushi hand roll, musubi consists of rice and a protein or vegetarian filling, all of which is wrapped in nori.

Chin says the popular Hawaiian snack is usually made with Spam — a brand of canned meat. 

"It's kind of a mystery meat in some ways," he said. "It's something that I grew up eating. I love it. It's definitely a comfort food for me."

Being a child of immigrants, Chin said he hasn't always felt proud of his ethnicity and culture but is using food to reconnect with his Asian heritage. 

In place of Spam, Chin's musubi uses the bull kelp harvested from the coast, cooked in tsukudani-style — combining  Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines, while using a local B.C. ingredient. 

This is Andrew Chin's rendition of a popular Hawaiian snack called musubi using bull kelp that was locally harvested off the coast of Vancouver Island. (Forage & Feast/CBC)

Bull Kelp tsukudani musubi recipe

Ingredients

200 g fresh bull kelp, or rehydrated kombu

8 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp mirin

5 tsp sugar

1 cup water

Dried nori sheets

Cooked white rice

Optional: Sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the fresh bull kelp. If using dried kombu, soak in cold water to rehydrate, and wash and dry. Thinly slice kelp and set aside.

  2. To make the tsukudani — add the kelp, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and water to a pot, and simmer over medium to medium-high heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the kelp is tender. Stir every few minutes to make sure the kelp doesn't burn. Set aside and let cool. 

  3. Cut nori sheets in half. 

  4. To assemble, place a sheet of nori on a cutting board, rough side up. Place a musubi mould on the sheet of nori, ⅓ of the way up from the bottom. Add in a layer of warm rice, and press down with the included musubi mould press. Each layer of rice should be about one inch thick.  Add in about a tbsp of the cooled tsukudani, or to taste, spreading over the rice. Add another layer of rice on top of the tsukudani and press it down. Then press on the musubi, as you lift up the outside of the mould to get it off. If you do not have a musubi mould, you can simply place spoonfuls of rice onto the seaweed and use a spatula to shape the layers of rice.

  5. To wrap, lift up the bottom of the sheet of nori and wrap it snugly over the rice and tsukudani mixture. Then continue rolling the musubi to wrap it all in the nori. Let the musubi rest seam side down to allow the nori to seal. The finished musubi can be eaten as is, or sliced in half and garnished with sesame seeds. If slicing in half, use a sharp knife and wipe down the blade with a wet paper towel after each musubi to prevent sticking.

With files from North by Northwest and Forage & Feast

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