If you have had sushi, you are sure not have missed seaweed— that deep red wrap around the sushi roll. This heavily nutritious, fishy-smelling food from the sea is one of the greatest emerging vegan food trends recently. Packed with antioxidants and nutrients, seaweeds come with interesting diversity be it the red algae such as which is popularly used as a sushi wrap, brown algae like wakame or kelp and green algae or 'sea lettuce.' From dried snacks to toppings in a salad, or in a warm bowl of soup, seaweed can be used for a wide variety of culinary experiences.
Soups: The most popular are the Korean Miyeokguk soup and the Shiitake miso soup. In Korea, the Miyeokguk soup is popularly had by nursing mothers while recovering from childbirth. The seaweed in the Korean soup is dried brown seaweed known as miyuk or sea mustard along with soup stock, soy sauce and garlic. The miso soup is packed with nutrients—cancer-preventing miso which is a paste made from soybeans, sea salt and the fungus koji, immunity boosting shiitake mushrooms and the nutrient-packed seaweed.
Salads: Seaweeds are a great substitute for the greens in your salads. A mix of sliced carrots, radish, avocado, and a serving of seaweed with a dressing of sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds make for a fine meal. A tinge of wasabi powder adds a punch. Wakame seaweed with a subtly sweet flavour is what generally goes into salads.
Desserts: This may not sound like an appetising idea for a dessert, but seaweeds are interestingly used in a variety of desserts be it with a combination of fruits, or as a gelling agent, or in cakes. Blancmange is a famous Irish pudding with carrageenan, a seaweed, as the star ingredient. With a delicate flavour, this reddish-brown plant is being widely used commercially as a thickening agent in desserts. Now if that sounds too weird a combination of desserts, do try the seaweed-flavoured ice creams. A team of scientists at the Sunderbans have even tried their hand at baking cookies and bread using steamed extract of local seaweed found abundantly in the mangroves.
Drinks: The seaweed dining experience will not be complete without a sip of Kombu-cha, Japanese tea brewed from fine powdered Kombu seaweed. Seaweed extracts are also used in wines and beer. Spirulina smoothie, made from the green algae is a yummy treat.
Snacks: High on nutrients, and low on calories, seaweed calls for a much-loved snack. Seaweed crisps are slowly catching up, and might even replace the calorie-loaded potato chips. They are just a packet of dried and roasted seaweed strips, with a variety of seasoning. Munch off on a whole packet of these and be guilt-free. If you find it too bland, or too 'fishy', try the intense wasabi paste as a dip.