Seaweed is not really eaten in Western diets but it is a very important part of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisines. Today, I will be talking about the different kinds of seaweed that the Japanese eat and how they prepare them.
Seaweed has many health benefits as it is high in iron, Vitamin C, calcium and other minerals. It is also an alkaline food which is good for balancing your diet as most of the food we eat is acidic.
Nori or Laver is probably the most well known kind of seaweed outside Japan. It is sold dried in sheets and is used to make sushi rolls and onigiri.
Unlike other kinds of seaweed, it does not need to be soaked in water and can be consumed as is or it can be slightly grilled to make it crispy and delicious.
Hijiki is a dark colored stringy kind of seaweed. It comes dried and has to be reconstituted in water. It is then usually steamed in water or broth. It makes a good side dish as it is healthy and filling.
Wakame is the only kind of seaweed that is easy to find fresh although even then it is usually stored in salt water.
Of course it also comes in dried form. Wakame can be eaten by itself as a salad or in soups. It is a common ingredient in miso soup.
Konbu is a thicker, sturdier kind of seaweed.
Most seaweeds are harvested in the spring in warmer waters but konbu thrives in cold water and is harvested in the winter. One of it’s main uses is to make dashi stock, a stock made from konbu and bonito flakes. Dashi is used as the base for many Japanese dishes.
Kanten, or agar agar is usually not eaten as is. Instead it is boiled and the extract is used as a gelling agent. It can be used as a vegan alternative to gelatin.
Mozoku is a dark brown seaweed mainly produced in Okinawa. It is usually eaten as a salad with some vinegar.
If you decide to buy some dried seaweed and try cooking it yourself, just be careful how much you use! It grows a lot when soaked in water so a little will go a long way.
Umibudo (Sea grape)
A local seaweed from Okinawa, instead of leaves it has little bubbles growing on its stems make it looks like little green grape. Umibudo is often referred as green cavier.
This seaweed has high mineral and low energy. It’s good with all kind of seafood.
As you can see, there are many different kinds of seaweed. They all have slightly different tastes and textures but they are all delicious and very good for you! Next time you’re in Japan, don’t be afraid to try them. You may be pleasantly surprised!