Why is seaweed healthy?
Did you know that by adding seaweed to legumes while they are cooking helps to soften them and also helps to detoxify them? For improved flavour and digestion, more nutrients, and faster cooking, place soaked kombu or kelp seaweed in the bottom of the pot. Add 1 part seaweed to 6 or more parts legumes. Use seaweed soak water to cook grains and vegetables.
In 2010 I was lucky enough to train with Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods who declares that sea vegetables and seaweeds are the highest plant source of minerals. Minerals in seaweeds (and any plant) are much more easily assimilated than minerals in supplements, which are often from non-living sources. By rotating various seaweeds through a diet, all minerals, including trace minerals, are made available. Sea vegetables are the richest source of magnesium including wakame, kombu, kelp, hijiki, arame and dulse.
Most seaweeds are mucilaginous (slippery) in texture when soaked, and have a briny, salty, earthy flavour. They help to lubricate the intestines and moisten dry symptoms, especially for the skin and lungs. Seaweed is very useful for transforming and resolving phlegm in the lungs and therefore can be used to treat coughs with yellow or green mucus. Seaweeds are one of the most nutritious ingredients on the planet due to the mineral content and are very high in calcium.
The texture can range from rubbery to crispy and crunchy. It’s naturally high in glutamic acid, which is a flavouring agent most notably found in monosodium glutamate (MSG) and responsible for its umami taste.
How to use
- Soak for warm water for 3–4 minutes. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid for soup or stock, or drink as a medicinal tonic.
- Adding a strip of seaweed to soups, stocks and slow cooks can boost the mineral content enormously. Cook down or discard before serving if preferred.
- Add to baked vegetable and stir-fry dishes, or add to spreads such as dips or dressings to thicken and boost the mineral content.
- Add snipped toasted nori to garnish soups, salads and stir fry.
- Seaweed can be added to dressings, compound butter, spreads, soups, stews, salads, eggs, rice, noodles, and even desserts.
Types of Japanese Seaweed
Wakame Undaria pinnatifida is a popular Japanese seaweed that you know from your miso soup. It is an olive-purple in colour and expands nearly tenfold and turns a dark greenish colour when soaked. It grows in wing-like fronds from around 40 cm long to twenty feet in kelp forests. Wakame is a type of brown algae that comes from the cold waters off the coast of Japan, China, and Korea. Try adding wakame to sauerkraut.
Nori Porphyra tenera is typically sold in dried, toasted sheets and are dusky-jade in colour. The fronds are hollow tubes that flutter in the water—some are like ruffled fans, while others are large and flat. The fibre of nori are more tender than other seaweeds. It is known as laver in Scotland and sloke in Ireland.
Highest protein content (48% of dry weight) and most easily digested of the seaweeds; rich in vitamins A, B1, and niacin; decreases cholesterol; treats painful and difficult urination, goiter, edema, high blood pressure, cough with yellow mucus, beriberi, fatty cysts under the skin, warts, and rickets; aids in digestion, especially with fried foods.
Snip with scissors or crumble over salads, stews, casseroles, dressings, spreads, or desserts.
Red Algae: Nori, Agar, Dulse You might be most familiar with nori, the purplish-black seaweed often found wrapped around rice in the form of sushi. Nori is made by shredding seaweed, pressing it into thin sheets, and rack drying.
Agar is another type of red algae and is widely used as a vegetarian gelatine substitute given its unique gelling properties. Dulse is a red algae that can be found in whole-leaf, flaked, or granule form, and even smoked. Dulse is soft and chewy and doesn’t require any soaking or cooking. You can add it to salads, soups, or even omelettes. When you pan-fry dulse in a little oil, it takes on a distinct bacon-like flavour, especially the smoked variety.
Brown Algae: Kelp, Kombu
Kombu is an essential ingredient in Korean and Japanese cooking. It’s one of the main ingredients in dashi, a classic Japanese stock, along with bonito flakes (katsuobushi in Japanese).
Dashi is the foundation of many soups and stews, including the popular miso soup. You can also add a piece of kombu to a pot of simmering dried beans to enhance their flavour and digestibility.
Green Algae: Sea Lettuce, Aonori Sea lettuce is typically used in salads and soups. Aonori is typically dried and then made into a powder.
Ogonori harvested by Cody Possum from Byron Bay to Yamba, this red strands make for good texture, slightly chewy, very nutritious.
- Ma kombu – Is known as high grade. Slightly sweet. Dashi colour is clear.
- Rausu kombu – Quite soft. The dashi that is made from this kombu is rich, slightly yellow. This kombu is used for kombu tea as well.
- Rishiri kombu – Tastes quite salty, dashi is clear. Often used in Kyo-Ryori (Kyoto cuisine).
- Hidaka kombu – Soft and easy to extract the flavour in boiling water, so this kombu is actually used as food ingredients. Often used in Kanto (Tokyo) area. Used in Oden.
- Atsuba kombu – Often covered with white powder that contains umami. Really thick and used in sushi.
- Naga kombu – This kombu is quite thin compared to others. Used in Okinawan cuisine.
- Hosome kombu – Is really thin and bit sticky. Used as topping.