Thank God for seaweeds. They are probably the easiest, naturally tastiest and one of the healthiest vegetable to prepare.
Easy to prepare. Simply soak, let swell and volia! A blooming sublime slimey mess of algae, all ready for a dish. No cook, fuss-free, don’t you like the sound of that? Seaweed was my SOS for easy lunch-box meals the last week when I had a consecutive 14-day work week – including 4 grueling days of managing a booth at a baby fair.
Naturally tasty. Seaweeds are naturally flooded with free glutamates, one of the two amino acids that impart and perk the fifth taste bud – umami (the other amino acid being aspartate). Interestingly, our umami taste receptors only detect free glutamate and not bound glutamate, where it is part of a protein – which may explain why other protein-rich foods such as poultry do not taste salty. The dried seaweed kombu has the highest known free glutamate value of 2240.0 mg/100g, and is the source from where monosodium glutamate (MSG) was first purified. We now know that MSG has been blacklisted as an “unhealthy food additive” that causes the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) including numbness and headaches, because the excess glutamates has an excitotoxic effect on neural cells. However, unlike monosodium glutamate (MSG), there is no basis that at levels consumed naturally in foods free glutamate will pose a health risk. The bottom line is that seaweed is your tasty source of weed for a delicious savoury salad!
Excellent healthful benefits. It is a complete protein source, low-fat and low-calorie. It is also an excellent source of thyroid-friendly iodine for revving metabolism. Iodine is required in the iodinization of tyrosine residues to form the active thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and T3 a within the thyroid gland. They enter target cells and modulate gene expression increase leading to the overall effect of increased basal metabolic rate (BMR). No wonder I was certainly bumbling with energy after consumption of this salad! Other minerals found richly in seaweed include vitamin K for blood and bone health, calcium, iron and some B-vitamins.
Now, the names of the varieties of edible seaweed are as confusing as the nomenclature of wines and spirits. Arame, chorella, dulse, hijiki, irish moss, kombu, nori, spirulina, wakame. Like wines, each type of seaweed has different properties best suited for different applications. And kindly presenting my seaweed infographic to clear things up, I hope you find it useful and feel free to add it to your pin boards!
For this salad, I combined noodly arame and leafy wakame with shiitake mushrooms and a smoky almond-avocado dressing using smoked almonds. All parts can be prepared the night before and all you have to do is to drain the seaweed and mix the separate parts together the next day. A host of tasty umami-rich ingredients (seaweed, mushrooms, tamari, smoked nuts), do try this swell seaweed salad, pun intended!
- 5 grams dried arame (or hijiki)
- 25 grams dried wakame
- 1½ cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
- ¼ cup spring onions, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine (or sake)
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- ¼ cup ripe avocado
- ¼ cup smoked almonds (or other nuts)
- ¼ cup orange juice (or lemon juice)
- 2½ tablespoons water
- ½ tablespoon tamari
- 2-inch fresh ginger root
- 3 cloves garlic
- To prepare the seaweed, place the arame and wakame in a large bowl and soak overnight in water sufficient to cover the seaweed. The next morning, drain and rinse the seaweed well. Set aside.
- To prepare the marinated magic mushrooms, place the sliced mushrooms and chopped spring onions in a large bowl. Whisk together the wine, vinegar and tamari and pour over the mushrooms. Mix well and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- To make the dressing, in a high speed blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
- To make the salad, combine the rehydrated arame, wakame and marinated mushrooms in a large bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Aji USA Food – Glutamate, the purest taste of umami.
Science of Cooking – Adding flavour using umami.