Home Cooking: Nori Rice Paste for Japanese Woodblock

Rice paste, called nori, is an essential part of water based woodblock printmaking. In Japan nori is a pretty universal substance used in all sorts of ways from laundry starch to safe glue for infants (eating glue must be a common problem, I certainly ate glue at my kindergarten – it tasted of almonds, yum). It can be bought everywhere and is dirt cheap.

applying white nori to the block for printing

Imagine my dismay when I came home to find that here nori is a rare and expensive thing. It was like blundering into the the fifties and finding that olive oil was back in Boots in 4oz bottles. Concerned and mean, I looked for alternatives.

The traditional recipe involves a lot of soaking, grinding and pushing of reluctant gloop through muslin. About 10% made it into my nori pot and seemingly 150% splattered the kitchen. Then I found a recipe suggesting rice starch – taa daa! Five minutes on the internet and I had a kilo and a half of fine milled white rice flour (turns out I bought enough flour to keep Hokusai’s print shop in business for a year, but it was so very cheap)

The recipe follows, it’s dead easy, takes about ten minutes and you can wean a baby along with printing if you wish. It’s only rice and water so has no preservative. I’ve done the experiments and can tell you that it doesn’t freeze (turns into water and a lump of something very odd). It’ll keep for about four days at British warm for spring temperature before going watery, at five days it’s got a fur coat. In the fridge it will last a week.

Mix 20g rice flour with 100ml of cold water
Stir until smooth and milky
Bring 150ml water almost to the boil in a pan
Add the paste mix in a smooth ribbon and stir
Bring to the boil and keep stirring constantly until the mix goes translucent (about five mins)
Cool, stirring from time to time

This excellent recipe comes from ‘The Art and Craft of Woodblock Printmaking’ ISBN 951-558-085-4

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16 Responses to Home Cooking: Nori Rice Paste for Japanese Woodblock

  1. Jane Molloy says:

    Thankyou for your recipe.
    I have made some up, but how do you prevent it from going mouldy?

    • Bobbie says:

      Keep a layer of water on top of your Nori. When you want to use it again, just pour off the water that still sits ont the surface and you’re ready to go. Keep your Nori from moulding and drying out.

  2. Thanks a lot for this Laura !!

  3. Maria says:

    Thanks a lot for the recipe!
    I was looking for it sooo long! and it is sooo
    easy to do!
    I make nori with one big spoon of rice flour and glass of water and it is more liquid but also good.

  4. Tony Westbrook says:

    Thank you for that. I heard it was good mixing it with watercolour
    for texture. I’ll give it a bash.

  5. Wendywoo says:

    Is this like the old Velverette glue that I used years ago? I want something that will hold delicate paper petals in place, raised not flat as in a form of decoupage? I was told that velverette was rice paste? Please help!

    • Laura says:

      You can certainly use this as a glue – the recipe is in resources on my web site. You can also make a much stronger version with wheat starch (get mine from a Chinese supermarket) or rice flour. For that you need to mix one part flour or starch with three parts water and beat CONSTANTLY with a wooden spoon for half an hour while it boils (longest 1/2 hour of your life) and then dilute to desired thickness when cooled

  6. Chromoxylo says:

    In reading this I notice that people are using paste and glue interchangeably, when they are very different things. Pastes are made from plant starches, and glues are made from animal and chemical compounds. Pastes, and glues made from animal skins are reversible, and can be softened and removed using water. Chemical glues can only be revered by chemical means; an example of a chemical glue would be PVA (polyvinyl acetate or white glue), or spray adhesives. If you use the correct terms then your chance of making an error becomes less likely.

  7. Katherine says:

    Was wondering if you use regular rice flour or sweet rice flour.

  8. Thank you for the recipe and tips! This is great info.

  9. Julie Howe says:

    Thank you, just what I was looking for.

  10. armi maddison says:

    Mine is still white after 10 mins of simmering and stirring?

    • Laura says:

      Hi if the paste is thickened, it’s ok to use. Since writing this, I’ve found different brands of rice flour behave differently, but all work if they have thickened. It won’t affect the printing

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