Tips for Using Sea Vegetables

When you think of sea vegetables, the image that comes to mind is probably sushi rolled up in seaweed. However, that is only brushing the surface as there is an entire variety of sea veggies just as there is of land vegetables. Here are a few tips for using sea vegetables.

Much more than the dehydrated variety of seaweed snacks available at your grocery store, sea vegetables classify as superfoods that are chockful of nutrition not typically found in land vegetables. 

Also, unlike land vegetables, sea vegetables do not have any roots and absorb nutrients and water directly into their tissues. The most well-known variety of these marine algae, no doubt remains seaweed, which is further classified into green, red, or brown varieties.

Common Sea Vegetable Varieties

Just as their land counterparts, edible sea vegetables also offer a vast diversity. Most varieties come with different nutritional profiles and use. Here is a quick look at the most common varieties of sea vegetables available.

Kelp

This is large, brown algae typically found in shallow, nutrient-dense saltwater near coastal fronts. There are about 30 different types of kelp each varying slightly in color, flavor, and nutrition, though the most common one is what you see in sushi rolls.

Kelp is able to absorb nutrients from its surrounding marine environment making it a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. It’s an excellent source of iodine. Its antioxidant properties may promote disease-fighting abilities.

How to use kelp?

Many people use kelp as a food or a supplement. It is available in a variety of forms such as raw, dried, powdered, and flakes making it easy to incorporate it into different dishes.

For instance, you can use dried kelp in soups and stews, or sprinkle dried flakes on food as a seasoning. It is also common to use raw kelp in salads and main dishes or blend it into a vegetable juice or smoothie. 

Nori

Another seaweed type used in wrapping sushi rolls; nori is a briny seaweed often available as thin, dry sheets. Asian cultures relate it to health and longevity and this saltwater seaweed comes packed with a host of important minerals and vitamins.

Like kelp, nori is a good source of iodine and may be added to diets where iodine deficiency is suspected. Or, if anyone is trying to minimize their salt intake, then adding some nori into the diet can be a suitable replacement.

It is crisp, mildly saline, and available in roasted form. Better qualities of this seaweed present a smooth, uniform texture with a dark green color. It is one of the better seaweed types to store for longer as it stays well in airtight packaging and can even be frozen when double-bagged for a good six months.

How to use nori?

Adding nori into the diet can be a versatile experience as you can easily sprinkle the crushed-up, toasted seaweed snack over salads or soups. Or, fill up a wrap with your favorite ingredients using a nori sheet to hold it together.

To snack on, simply pass nori sheets over an open flame, brush with sesame oil, and sprinkle on some salt. Cut up into small rectangles to use for snacks or top with rice, kimchi, and fried egg.

Wakame

Wakame is a seaweed that makes for a popular addition to cold salads or as a topping on soup, tofu, sushi, or rice. It is nutrient-dense while being low in calories and consuming even small amounts of this seaweed can boost the intake of important minerals like iodine, folate, magnesium, manganese, and calcium, along with vitamins A, C, E, and K. 

Wakame is available in dried and salted forms. The former is the more common one while the latter is sold refrigerated and sealed. It comes as shriveled up strips and the dried strips need to be soaked before using.

How to use wakame?

As opposed to nori, wakame has a slightly sweet flavor and is used either raw or rehydrated in soups and salads.

Wakame presents a silky, somewhat satiny texture that works nicely when you pair it with ingredients that have some crunch to them. It needs to be reconstituted before using by playing the seaweed in a bowl and covered with warm water for a few minutes.

Once hydrated and drained, you can chop it and use it as you wish. Some people also like to blanch wakame and then drain it before use. Another way to go is to grind the dried strips and use them as a seasoning.

Arame

Arame is another sea vegetable that has a semi-sweet flavor making it a choice ingredient to saute or boil after reconstituting and use in a variety of dishes. It comes from the dark brown variety of sea vegetables.

Unlike other types of leafy seaweed, arame gives the appearance of long brown strands. This seaweed type is nutritionally dense with a profile featuring prominent minerals, vitamins, and other components. It contains fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A along with iodine.

Love preparing my own wakame salads.
Photo: plantbasedeva.com

How to use arame?

Arame may not be as easily available as other types of sea vegetables and you may well have to seek out a Japanese or Asian market to find it. Being a small plant, you may need to add an ample amount to your food to benefit from its mineral and vitamin content.

It is usually sold in shredded, cooked, and air-dried forms and is easily reconstituted. You can use arame by steaming, sauteing, and adding it to soups or salads. Its firm and crisp texture also makes it suitable for use in appetizers, casseroles, muffins, pilafs, and toasted dishes.

Dulse

Dulse is a type of seaweed whose taste is often likened to that of bacon and yields ample supplies of protein and fiber. It is an equally rich source of trace minerals, vitamins, healthy fatty acids, and antioxidants. It gives the appearance of a leafy, red lettuce and grows wild on the Northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Once harvested, dulse is dried immediately to preserve freshness before it is packaged. It is available in whole-leaf, flaked, powder, and ground varieties and is incorporated into seasoning mixes.

Wild dulse has long been used in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales as part of a staple diet and can also be cultivated.

How to use dulse?

Since dulse is available in different forms, it’s easy to choose one that suits your culinary needs best. The seaweed doesn’t lose nutritional value after being converted into powder or flakes. It’s easy to use in a variety of ways. It is best to store it in a dry, dark place where it can last well for up to two years.

To get its bacon-like effect, dulse is typically pan-fried in some oil over medium-high heat until crisp. You can then sandwich it between two bread slices paired with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. You can also have dulse raw or prepared as a snack, or add it to your salad.

Dulse flakes are convenient to spread over scrambled eggs, popcorn, or mixed into a vinaigrette or seaweed shake.

Kombu

Kombu belongs to the kelp family and gives a rich umami flavor when added to food. It adds a slightly salty and faintly sweet touch to dishes when used.

As opposed to other types of seaweed varieties, it is easier to find dried kombu in Asian markets. Often available as strips, kombu presents a tough, thick texture that may take a while to soften when cooking. This seaweed stays well when stored in an airtight container away from sunlight and moisture.

How to use kombu?

You can use kombu in the same manner as other seaweed varieties by adding it to stews and salads or as a condiment. And then you can do some more by using it to tenderize proteins.

For instance, amino acids present in kombu can soften beans making them easier to digest. Adding a kombu strip to beans while cooking is a great idea.

Adding kombu can soften beans making them easier to digest.
Frank Zhang on Unsplash

Another common use of kombu is to use it while preparing the broth for Asian soups like miso, noodle, or tofu soup and as a staple for preparing dashi, an essential stock used in Japanese cooking.

Are sea vegetables healthy?

Sea vegetables considered a healthy food. Most boast an impressively dense nutrient profile but it is also important to remember that sea vegetables soak up minerals from the waters they inhabit. This means that along with good nutrients, they can also take up heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium from their surrounding.

To eliminate this risk, use organic varieties that indicate that the products have been tested for arsenic. Certified organic seaweed is grown and harvested in unpolluted waters that are free from harmful chemicals and other pollutants.

Making homemade veggie sushi rolls with nori sheets.
Photo: plantbasedeva.com

When you prepare sea vegetables, soak for a short time only. Otherwise, prolonged soaking may leach out nutrients and lower their ability to soak up seasonings. The point is to soften the seaweed and give it a tender texture. Most will expand up to 4 times their dried volume after soaking.

Another consideration is munching on too much-dried seaweed as a snack. While the practice has become popular, it can give you an excessive amount of iodine which may overstimulate the thyroid gland and cause thyroid dysfunction.

Conclusion

Sea vegetables are nutritious edible marine algae that are available in fresh, dehydrated, and powdered varieties. They are good sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids and make for an excellent addition to any dedicated plant-based kitchen.

For some culinary inspiration, you can check out this Free Culinary Mini-Training.

Stay Healthy,

Eva

*Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning, at no additional cost to you. I will be compensated if you click through and take action. This is to help support the blog and does not have any impact on my recommendations. Thanks for supporting Plant-Based Eva.

References:

https://www.nutritionadvance.com/sea-vegetables/

https://www.seriouseats.com/seaweed-guide-how-to-use-kelp-kombu-nori-wakame-sea-vegetables

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