There aren’t many rivers in the world where you would feel comfortable eating the local river weeds, but thanks to the crystal clear waters of the Shimanto River in Kōchi, locals and visitors alike can enjoy the crunchy green treat that is aonori tempura.
Aonori literally means “green seaweed,” despite the fact that this almost grassy-tasting plant grows only in rivers. Decidedly less fishy than seaweed from the ocean, this healthy plant is enjoyed sprinkled over rice in dried flakes, as a paste flavored with soy sauce and mirin, or dried in strands.
However, it is in tempura that aonori reaches its highest form. Combined with a flour and egg mixture, the aonori resembles a small, deep-green sponge. But the flavor is intense, fresh, and earthy, while the deep-frying process gives it a satisfying crunch that begs to be accompanied by a glass of crisp local sake.