Seaweed: All About The Asian Superfood And Its Many Uses

In Western cuisine, a rising trend involves chefs experimenting with seaweed in soups and smoothies, driven by its eco-friendly potential, as seaweed cultivation can capture and store carbon dioxide
Japanese seaweed 'wakame'
Japanese seaweed 'wakame'Shutterstock

Seaweed, a long-standing culinary staple in Asian cuisine, accounts for a substantial 98 per cent of the global 35 million metric tons sold each year, as reported by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. However, a new trend is emerging in Western culinary circles, where chefs are increasingly experimenting with seaweed, incorporating it into soups and smoothies.

One of the driving factors behind this surge in popularity is the environmentally friendly aspect of seaweed. According to the Seaweed Manifesto, a UN study, cultivating algae could serve as a means to capture and store carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming. Moreover, seaweed cultivation doesn't rely on land or extensive irrigation, making it a more sustainable alternative to traditional agriculture.

Seaweed is not only beneficial for the planet but also for your health. Recognised as a superfood, this marine vegetable is rich in protein, amino acids, vitamins, and essential minerals like iron and calcium.

As the global seaweed trend gains momentum, here are some creative ways to incorporate seaweed into your kitchen.

Foie gras with seaweed jam on top
Foie gras with seaweed jam on top Shutterstock

Seaweed Jam

If you seek a unique twist for your breakfast, consider seaweed jam. Miyeok, also known as "wakame," is a variety of seaweed found in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean. When simmered with soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and rice wine vinegar, it transforms into a sticky, spreadable jam. Use it as a condiment with seafood, mix it with butter for pan-frying other proteins, or spread it on your toast as a snack. Seaweed has long been a staple in Korean cuisine and can introduce new flavours and textures to your dishes.

Seaweed soup
Seaweed soupShutterstock

Seaweed Soup

Another classic Korean dish is miyeok-guk, a soup featuring miyeok, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and typically beef or another protein. Although enjoyed year-round, it's often served on birthdays, stemming from the tradition of consuming seaweed to aid in postpartum recovery. However, seaweed soup is not limited to Asia. On the remote west coast of Ireland, seaweed, particularly alaria (winged kelp), is combined with pumpkin to create a hearty autumnal soup.

Healthy superfood from oceanic seaweed
Healthy superfood from oceanic seaweedShutterstock

Seaweed Smoothies

Seaweed can be a surprising addition to smoothies, perfect for breakfast, a midday pick-me-up, or an evening treat. It provides a quick and convenient way to boost your intake of essential vitamins such as B, C, E, and K. One popular smoothie recipe incorporates sea spaghetti, egg wrack, bladderwrack (dark-coloured seaweeds with round air bladders), along with ginger, pineapple, and spinach.

Oysters with cheesy gratin topping
Oysters with cheesy gratin topping Shutterstock

Seaweed Cheese and Butter

Another ingenious way to showcase the versatility of seaweed is through seaweed cheese and butter. Dulse, a long, red algae from the North Atlantic, and sea lettuce are added to cheese and allowed to mature for three months. The same approach is taken with butter, which can be spread on toast or used in various dishes, including scrambled eggs. Food experts suggest these inventive creations will challenge the misconception that seaweed is "slimy and a bit smelly."

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