It’s one of the most nutrient-dense, widely available, sustainable foods on the planet. So why do Americans only eat seaweed at the sushi bar? Among the sea veggie’s many benefits, a single serving packs in five times the daily requirement of iodine, a hard-to-find nutrient essential to brain and thyroid health. It’s also loaded with calcium, protein, vitamins A, B12, C and D, and—take heed, soon-to-be moms—it’s rich in folic acid, too.
Edible seaweed comes in three major varieties. They are: brown, the most commonly eaten, including wakame (typically used in seaweed salad) and kombu (the base for dashi broth in miso soup); red, which includes nori (what your sushi roll comes wrapped in), and green. Brown and green seaweeds usually come dried and, though they can be enjoyed like a jerky, are most often soaked in water prior to eating. Red seaweed varieties are sold as thin sheets that can be used straight from the package. Try grinding some in a food processor to use as a nutrient-packed, savory condiment on roasted fish, scrambled eggs or even popcorn.
Here are five more tasty ways to enjoy this superfood from the sea.
Wakame Salad with Cucumber and Pear
Who says seaweed salad is just for the sushi bar? This unusual salad pairs equally well with seafood and chicken.
Makes: 4 servings
1 cup (3/4 oz) dried, shredded wakame
3 TB rice vinegar
3 TB reduced sodium soy sauce
2 TB toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish
2 tsp sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 medium Bosc pears, cored and finely diced
1/2 English cucumber, finely diced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 TB toasted sesame seeds
- Cover seaweed with cold water by 3 inches. Let stand until just softened, about 10 minutes. Drain well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, horseradish, sugar, ginger and garlic until sugar is dissolved.
- Combine seaweed, pear, cucumber and radish. Cover with dressing and toss to coat.
Serve garnished and sesame seeds.
Crispy Nori Chips
This addictive snack can be pricy. Save your yen by making your own at home.
Makes: 4 servings
16 sheets of Nori
2 TB olive oil
1 TB sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350. With a pastry brush, lightly brush each nori sheet with olive oil.
- Slice each nori sheet four equal-sized squares. Sprinkle with sea salt and transfer to a baking sheet.
- Roast chips until crisp, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Irish Seaweed Soup
The Japanese aren’t the only ones clued into the awesome benefits of seaweed. This recipe calls for a salty, brown seaweed called dulse. Wakame will work as a substitute.
1 TB olive oil
1/3 oz dulse, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup of green lentils
1 waxy potato, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and chopped
Chopped parsley, lemon and crushed dulse, to garnish, optional
- In a pan over medium heat, saute dulse, onion and celery until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cayenne and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add stock, lentils and potato. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to simmer until the lentils and potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to blender in batches (or use an immersion blender) to puree until mostly smooth. Serve garnished with parsley or other herbs, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkly of dulse, if desired.
Wakame Mushroom Dumplings
These tasty, vegan dumplings are delicious as a side dish, snack, or cocktail party hors d’oeuvre.
Makes: 20 dumplings
1 oz dried, shredded wakame
2 oz enoki or oyster mushrooms
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 TB fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Napa cabbage, finely chopped
1 TB low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
20 round dumpling wrappers
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, for pan-frying
- Cover wakame with lukewarm water by three inches and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Chop until wakame is the same size as mushrooms and cabbage. In a medium bowl, combine all filling ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange dumpling wrappers on a work surface, making sure they do not touch. Place 1 teaspoon of filling on one half of each wrapper. Use your finger to moisten the edge of each disc with water, then fold over like a taco and press until firmly sealed.
- Heat oil in a large pan over high heat. Working in batches, add dumplings and fry, without turning, until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup warm water to the pan (careful, it will splatter!). Cook, partially covered, until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer dumplings to a paper-towel lined plate before serving.
This tangy topping is delicious on everything from sausages to sandwiches to roast pork. It’s made with arame, a flavorful variety of kelp.
Makes: 8 servings
2 pounds green cabbage, finely shredded
1 small turnip, peeled and finely sliced on a mandolin
1 small rutabaga, peeled and finely sliced on a mandolin
1/4 cup dried arame seaweed
2 tablespoons sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, squeezing the cabbage to release as much liquid as possible. Using a plate to weigh down the mixture, let stand at room temperature. Continue to periodically squeeze and toss cabbage until fully submerged in liquid, about 4 hours.
- Transfer mixture to a large glass or ceramic container. Place a clean plate that fits just inside the vessel on top. Place a heavy can or other weight on top of the plate. The mixture should be covered by at least 1/2 inch of liquid. Allow to ferment in a cool, dark place for six to eight weeks.
- Every three to four days, clean and replace the plate that sits on the cabbage, skimming any foam or mold from the surface of the liquid. If the cabbage and/or its liquid starts to stink, throw it out! Ditto if anything moldy or slimy has gone below the layer easily scraped off the surface. If you need more liquid to keep the mixture submerged, add 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon dissolved sea salt.
- The finished kraut will be crisp, tangy and, yes, sour. Keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to six months.