In East Asian cuisine, seaweed is an essential name. It is used with soup, salad, sushi, maki, and a lot of other dishes. However, it is not native to any other places which are why we don’t see seaweed in other cuisines.
Seaweed has an oceanic taste, but it is much more than that. It enhances the entire flavor of the food. To learn more about this taste and texture, we have described all types of seaweed below!
What is Seaweed
These are basically plants that grow under the ocean. It is an umbrella term used to refer to multiple types of algae, plants, etc. Although it is called seaweed, some are found in freshwater as well as oceans and seas. You might be wondering which ones we use usually.
Well for cooking, we use edible ones that come from the ocean only. There are edible and nonedible ones. Edible ones are very nutritious and healthy. Seaweed contains protein, minerals, and vitamins. In fact, in East Asia, seaweed is used widely. From their regular food to fancy ones, seaweed can be found everywhere.
You can find seaweed in sheets that are commonly seen with sushi, maki, etc. Since they are easy to carry and handle, seafood is a great source of vitamins for health-conscious people as well. Seaweed can be farmed too. In some coastal areas, people grow seaweed for commercial purposes.
What Does It Taste Like
The taste of seaweed can vary with color, type, and flavor. But none of those are bad in the sense that it only enhances the taste and fragrance of the dish you use seaweed with. It can’t be described in a few words. We also need to explain the texture, the fragrance, and the taste of it for you to have an overall sense of what it is.
Since seaweed comes from the sea, the taste definitely has an ocean vibe to it. If you have heard about it being salty, then you have heard it right. It does taste salty, and briny at times. But it also has a mineral flavor.
Seafood sheets are often crunchy but very thin. So it might crumble once you put it in your mouth. The texture can be rubbery too. Sometimes the sheets are too hard and crunchy that you need to put them in water to soften them and use them in nori. It is not slimy but definitely rubbery so you can't tear it apart with your hands.
You will need to use scissors or knives to cut it into pieces. One surprising piece of news is the more you soak them in water, the chewier they become. The texture and shape can be compared to bacon as well. The texture and chewiness are similar to those and beef skewers. In fact, a type of seaweed is used as a substitute for bacon. You can get Annie Chun's - Crispy Organic Seaweedhere.
You can also call the taste of it umami but not spicy. The word umami in culinary means that it is both savory and meaty since it consists of three compounds more commonly found in plants and meat: glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate. If you get a spicy flavored one, then that is added spice. Seaweed also has a fishy flavor. You probably have guessed it already since it comes to from the sea.
Everything from that waterbody will have a specific fishy flavor. However, the good news is that it doesn’t tone down its unique taste at all. In fact, some people say it makes it better when used with sushi and maki. Although seaweed is known to smell bad, that is only when they rot and produces a gas that makes it smell like a rotten egg! But don’t worry, edible fresh seaweed will never smell like that.
As we already explain it smells like ocean and umami flavors. When used in the right way, the oceanic smell will make you want to eat it even more.
Types of Seaweed
There are multiple types of seaweed as it is used as an umbrella term. In fact, edible ones have types too. Describing a few with examples will make you more informed about them.
One famous type of red algae is nori. It is the one used with sushi and maki rolls. Although we call them plants, noris are sheets. Wondering why? Well, they shred the seaweed and then make sheets by pressing it onto a sheet. Then get those to dry and eat. It also doesn’t look dark green until you have put them on top of the burner. It is called toasting.
You can buy them untoasted and then burn them to turn dark green as well. Another type of red algae is agar. This type is used for vegan gelatin. It works as a nice substitute too. The third type is the one we briefly discussed: Dulse. It is soft and has the same texture as general seaweed.
But the good thing is you can eat it without soaking or cooking it. We already said it tastes like bacon. So, you can eat it for breakfast, with meals, and in soup too.
Just like red algae, brown algae also has some types that you will see in dishes from Korea and Japan. Have you seen the bowl of soup called miso soup at Japanese restaurants? Well, they use one of the famous brown algae known as kombu. It is the main ingredient of stews and soups from Japan.
Basically, kombu is used in dashi, which makes all the popular dishes from Japan. Kombu improves your digestive system and helps you digest food faster.
Another type of brown algae is wakame. It is native to East Asia, especially Japan, China, and Korea. It has grown in the cold water coastal areas of those countries. It is also used to make miso soup. It looks very dark green when you put it in water for a long and expands a lot.
Geen algae have only two types. The one interesting type of seaweed is aonori. Although it has a similar name to nori, it is quite different than that. Aonori is first dried and then powdered. S yes, you can use powdered seaweed in your salad, and food as well. Then we have sea lettuce. As you can already tell by the name it is used with salad and soup.
Can Vegans Eat Seaweed
A lot of people become concerned if seaweed being vegan. *Drumrolls* Yes! They are vegan. Seaweed is a type of plant that is completely vegan. There are no animal products that is used while making it. You can treat it as just another plant like the tomato too.
The only difference is that it grows under the ocean. Not just that it also provides a lot of vitamins and minerals to your body. You can actually stay healthier if you add seaweed to your food. In fact, researchers have found that it contains cancer fighting agents.
Seaweed is not only tasty but also very healthy. If you are considering adding a special ingredient to your food to enhance the taste and make it healthier, consider adding one type of seaweed.
It provides iodine, vitamin D, B12, and much more to your food. If you want to learn more about the healthy stuff in seaweed, you can watch this video by the University of California