Friday, April 4, 2014

Seaweed Salad

Wakame seaweed salad. The color of seaweed varies from brown to olive green to bright green.
This one is a little unusual. Seaweed seems like a strange thing to make into a salad, but it works really well. It's slightly crunchy, quick, and fairly cheap. A little bit of dried seaweed goes a long way - it expands a lot when soaked in warm water. It absorbs water fast, so in 5 minutes, you can eat it. And unlike lettuce, you can dress it ahead and it will keep quite nicely the fridge. In fact, it gets better as the greens absorb the dressing.
Rehydrated wakame
There are many types of seaweed. The ones I like best in salad are wakame and arame (and hijiki, but high levels of arsenic have been measured in hijiki, so you probably want to avoid that one). If you have had miso soup to start a Japanese meal, you have had wakame. It's the green leaves in miso soup. Arame is a little sweeter than wakame and has more crunch. You soak the dried seaweed in warm tap water for about 5 minutes to reconstitute, rinse it off, squeeze lightly to get rid of excess water, and they're ready to go. No cooking needed. The flavor is earthy with a whiff of the ocean, like a walk along the beach. Seaweed is not particularly salty but very savory from all the minerals of the sea.

Seaweed Salad
(serves 6-8)

⅔ cup dried seaweed
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium, preferably)
2 Tablespoon natural rice vinegar (see Note)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Asian sesame oil
½ - 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger or pickled ginger
a pinch of cayenne or a few drops of Chinese chile oil
salt to taste (none if using full sodium soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Reconstitute seaweed by soaking it in warm tap water for 5 minutes. Remove any hard bits you find. Drain, rinse with cool water, and squeeze to remove excess water.

If the seaweed is in large pieces, chop it coarsely. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days. The seaweed will soak up more flavor as it sits.

Note: you can use seasoned rice vinegar - sushi vinegar - but don't add any sugar or salt to the salad because sushi vinegar has salt and sugar added.

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