Until recently, seaweed has gotten a bum rap as being that stinky tangled mess that shows up on beaches. Even the name “sea weed” conjures images of unwanted vegetal matter that you spend your weekends meticulously plucking from your vegetable garden.
Like their land-based brethren, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of sea plants, many of which are edible. Properly harvested and dried, they should not smell fishy in the slightest, having a supple, crunchy texture similar to certain types of mushrooms. Best of all, marine vegetables are sustainable and about as nutrient dense as food comes, loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals such as iodine, magnesium and iron.
Ironically, the colorful sesame oil seasoned dish popularized by American sushi restaurants as “seaweed salad” is not very common in Japan. Instead, various sea vegetables such as kuki-wakame, hijiki, or mozuku are often served with land vegetables such as daikon and cucumber, and dressed with a light ponzu or a rice vinegar dressing.
I don’t have anything against the popular salad that was probably inspired by Chinese jellyfish salad, but I do have a problem with the fact that most packaged salads are loaded with MSG, food coloring, and preservatives. Even sushi restaurants tend to buy it in tubs at Costco. That’s why I’ve come up with my own version to share with you.
It has that familiar sweet and sour flavor redolent of toasted sesame with just a hint of ginger. I didn’t have any chili peppers at home today, but if you like it spicy add some chili flakes, or mince up some fresh chili peppers and add them in.
While the recipe is super simple, you may have trouble finding the mixed dry seaweed. If you’re in the US, you can order it online from Amazon, or you should be able to find it in any Japanese grocery store. If you have trouble finding it in your area, look for the more widely available wakame. It’s not quite the same thing, but it has a nice texture and is good in salads.
This seaweed salad recipe is a healthy Japanese dish. It's sustainable and loaded with nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals like iron. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto explains where to purchase seaweed in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 30 grams (1 ounce) dry mixed seaweed
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar (you can substitute a 1/2 tablespoon agave)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger juice
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- Put the dry seaweed in a large bowl and fill it with cold water. If you like your seaweed crunchy, soak it for 5 minutes, if you like it more tender, soak it for 10 minutes.
- To make the dressing, combine the rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, salt and ginger juice in a small bowl and whisk together.
- Drain the seaweed and use your hands to squeeze out excess water. Wipe out any excess water in the bowl, and then return the seaweed along with the dressing and sesame seeds. Toss thoroughly to combine. Plate the salad and garnish with scallions.
Yield: 4 small servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.