Seaweed, long revered in Japanese culture, is available as close as Puget Sound. But can we simply stroll down to Golden Gardens and harvest some fresh kelp for eating? “Yes,” says Taichi Kitamura, owner and chef at Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake. “All seaweed is edible; it is just a matter of tasting good or bad.”
Seaweed comes in various shapes and forms—pressed and dried into sheets for sushi rolls, salted in jars, dried whole and other preparations. “I like them all, but my choice is wakame,” says Kitamura. Dark green wakame is sold in both dried and jarred forms. Sometimes labeled as sea vegetables, it has an almost indistinguishable, subtle taste. The texture is satisfying. “It’s something in between melt in your mouth and chewy,” he says.
Add wakame to soup for instant health benefits. “If I’m cooking instant ramen at home, I feel bad about it, but if I add wakame to it, I feel l ate something healthy,” says Kitamura. “If I prepare a green salad at home, I add wakame to the top and toss it with a soy-ginger dressing.”
At Sushi Kappo Tamura, he serves wakame with nattō (a preparation of fermented soybeans that “has an aroma similar to stinky cheese”), cucumber and seafood in a sweet, vinegary sauce.
While nori, the dried sheets of seaweed used in making sushi, is more commonly known, “Wakame can be utilized in a lot of different ways,” says Kitamura, “but…people don’t know about it yet.”
Why you should try it: Wakame is packed with antioxidants and nutrients, including calcium, iron and magnesium—and has a sweet, slightly salty flavor and thick texture. “It is unusual to an American palate, but it’s full of minerals and fiber, plus has zero calories,” says Kitamura.
How to use it: Don’t overcook it. “Melted seaweed is not pleasant—it’s like slime,” Kitamura says. Soak wakame for about 10 minutes before tossing it in a vinaigrette made from lemon juice, soy sauce and sugar, and folding it into a green salad. Minced ginger adds flavor.
Wakame and Shrimp Salad with Dijon Mustard Dressing
- 1 ounce dried wakame
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 5 ounces English cucumber, sliced thin
- 4 ounces cooked salad shrimp
1. Put the dried seaweed into a large bowl, fill it with cold water and soak it for 5 minutes. For more tender seaweed, soak it for 10 minutes.
2. To make the dressing, combine the rice vinegar, lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.
3. 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 cucumber and the dressing.
4. Toss thoroughly to combine.
5. Plate the salad and place the shrimp on top.