Sea vegetables are nature’s vitamin and mineral supplement. As we change our diets to better match the needs of our bodies, I often encounter people searching for quality supplement brands. I understand the desire. We live in a world of constant stressors that tax our bodies and make proper nutrition even more important. However, rather than relying solely on pills to enhance your nutrition, I’d like you to introduce you to a simple, delicious superfood to add to your diet: Sea Vegetables.
Commonly called seaweed, modern Americans often have an ingrained “ick factor” when discussing sea vegetables. We imagine slimy strands beneath our feet at the beach and have no desire to include those “weeds” on our plates. When found in restaurants, sea vegetables are often neon green or yellow with additives and colorings doused in sugar laden sauce. In reality though, sea vegetables have a lovely smooth or crisp texture, depending on how they are prepared. Much of the rest of the world already knows the delicious benefits of these vegetables. It’s time for us to learn too!
In this blog, we’ll walk you through a variety of our favorite sea vegetables and give you recipes for each! We’ve even added a quick video, at the end of the blog, to show you how quick and easy it is to make Crispy Fried Dulse.
Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables
Sea Vegetables are incredibly nutrient dense. They are high in vitamin K, B vitamins, iodine, calcium, and magnesium, as well as many other vitamins and trace minerals. They are also high in detoxifying nutrients, polyphenols and polysaccharides not found in land vegetables, such as fucoidan, which is a current focus in cancer research.
Sea vegetables are also “alkalizing” foods, which is a popular buzzword in healthy eating right now. To be “alkalizing” means these foods offset the overly acidic environments many people have developed inside their bodies through poor diet and lifestyle choices.
Umami Flavor and Kombu
Kelp Photo credit: TheSeaweedMan.com
The flavor sensation known as umami, described as savory richness or “mouth feel,” originates from the flavor of kombu, which is a type of kelp. Glutamic acids are the basis of this flavor and are now used in the additive MSG.
Before the commercialized, chemical version of MSG, this rich flavor came naturally from kombu broth. The flavor enhancing and gut supportive benefits of Kombu extend to many recipes. For example, when I prepare dried beans at home, I add a 1-inch piece of kombu to the cooking beans to increase flavor and digestibility.
Many of us have our first introduction to sea vegetables in sushi rolls, where nori is wrapped around white rice. For those of us not yet in Phase 3, there are many other ways to prepare these nutritious vegetables that won’t overload your meal with carbohydrate. Crumble nori as a garnish in soup. Our family loves nori strips on top of Creamy Cauliflower Soup (ALWAYS HUNGRY Book page 280). In addition, my son loves to take little 3-inch squares of nori in his lunch to wrap around brown rice, vegetables or meats to make what he calls “poppers”. It’s his version of “Lunchables”. We also just eat it as a snack like little chips.
One of my favorite recipes is Sweet Ginger Arame. Arame is a member of the kelp family, and it’s the perfect introductory sea vegetable. Its mild flavor lends itself easily to any dish, and its texture adds a great bite. I recently made this recipe for a friend who had a not-so-positive view of sea vegetables, and she loved it! Right away, she asked for the recipe, and we realized it’d be a great one to also share with all of you! Find it in natural food stores or order it online. Eden foods is a common brand that’s easy to find.
Dulse Photo credit: TheSeaweedMan.com
One of my other favorite starter sea vegetables is Dulse. It has a mild, slightly smoky flavor and comes in thin, purplish-red color strips. My favorite way to eat it is to fry it crispy and crumble it over salads, fold it into wraps, or just eat it like chips. It has often been used as a vegetarian bacon substitute. I order my dulse from www.theseaweedman.com You can also find it in stores or online from Maine Coast Seaweed Company
Wakame or Alaria
Another easy sea vegetable to use is wakame (the Japanese version) or alaria (found on the Maine Coast). Just add a small strip to soups or stir-frys for a nutrient boost, or reconstitute it, and add it as a topper on salads. I love it reconstituted and cut up with cucumbers, cilantro, and covered in Ginger Soy Vinaigrette (ALWAYS HUNGRY Book page 280). You can even add a bit of arame or dulse to the mix for even more variety.
Onions sautéed until they are sweet and caramelized make a delicious base for this dish, and a zing of ginger at the end balances it perfectly. If you’ve never tried seaweed or thought you didn’t like it, this is the dish to try.
1/2 cup dry Arame (1/2 ounce) Water for soaking 1 tablespoon olive oil or toasted sesame oil 1 medium onion, diced 1/2 to 1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste 1 inch ginger root, peeled and cut into thin rounds 3 tablespoons water
Soak arame in enough warm water to cover. The arame will double in size once rehydrated. While it is soaking, sauté the onion over medium heat until caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain the arame and discard soaking water. Add arame and soy sauce to the onions. Sauté about 5 minutes. Purée ginger in 3 tablespoons water with an immersion blender, and stir into seaweed mixture. Remove from heat and serve.
Savory Arame with Tahini
This recipe combines the richness of tahini with protein-rich tofu to create the ultimate umami flavored seaweed dish.
1/2 cup dry arame (about 1/2 ounce)
Water for soaking
2 tablespoons olive oil or toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed with an absorbent towel, and crumbled
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste 2 tablespoons tahini 1 inch ginger root, peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 tablespoons water
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, to garnish
Soak arame in enough warm water to cover. The arame will double in size once rehydrated. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Stir in garlic. Add crumbled tofu, and sauté 5 minutes.
Drain the arame and discard soaking water. Add arame and soy sauce. Sauté 5 minutes more. Purée ginger and tahini in 3 tablespoons water with an immersion blender, and stir into seaweed mixture. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate the sauce into the tofu. Remove from heat.
Place sesame seeds in a stainless steel pot or small skillet with a lid. Shake the pot regularly, with lid on, over medium high heat until you hear seeds popping, about 2 to 5 minutes depending on the pot and flame. Once seeds are popping, shake continuously over the flame for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and pour seeds onto a plate.
Garnish arame with sesames seeds and serve.
As a snack, filler for a wrap, or topping for a salad, this quick and easy sea vegetable preparation is sure to please.
1 cup dry dulse
2 to 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil for frying
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Separate the dulse into thin strips and add to hot oil, being sure not to crowd the pan. Fry both sides until brown and crispy. The dulse won’t lay flat in the oil, so you can simply stir it around until both sides are brown and crispy.