You might have encountered seaweed wrapped around rice and fish at a sushi restaurant, but it's not the first thing that typically comes to mind when thinking about morning toast spreads.
Seaweed has long enjoyed popularity in Asia, responsible for a staggering 98% of the annual 35 million metric tonnes sold worldwide, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
However, a new culinary trend has Western chefs experimenting more with this ingredient, incorporating it into soups and smoothies. One of the key reasons behind its growing popularity is its environmentally friendly profile.
The Seaweed Manifesto, a UN report, suggests that cultivating algae could be a promising method for capturing and storing carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. Moreover, seaweed cultivation doesn't require arable land or irrigation, making it potentially more sustainable than traditional agriculture.
Seaweed isn't just eco-friendly; it's also a nutritional powerhouse. Known as a superfood, this marine vegetable is rich in protein, amino acids, vitamins, and essential minerals like iron and calcium.
As the global seaweed trend gains momentum, here are some creative ways to incorporate seaweed into your culinary repertoire:
1. Seaweed Jam: For a unique breakfast experience, consider trying seaweed jam. Miyeok, also known as "wakame," is a variant of algae found in the chilly waters of the North Pacific Ocean.
Simmer it with soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and rice wine vinegar, and you'll get a sticky, spreadable jam.
Use it as a condiment with seafood, mix it with butter for sautéing various proteins, or simply spread it on your morning toast for a tasty snack.
2. Seaweed Soup: Another classic dish originating from Korea is miyeok-guk, a soup that features miyeok, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and typically beef or another protein.
Although enjoyed throughout the year, it's often served on birthdays, stemming from a tradition of postpartum consumption to aid in the mother's recovery after childbirth.
3. Seaweed Smoothies: Seaweed can be a great addition to your smoothies, whether for breakfast, a midday pick-me-up, or a delightful evening treat.
This quick fix can boost your intake of vitamins, including B, C, E, and K. Consider combining sea spaghetti, egg wrack, bladderwrack, ginger, pineapple, and spinach for a nutritious blend that showcases the best of both land and sea.
4. Seaweed Cheese and Butter: The versatility of seaweed shines through in creations like seaweed cheese and butter. The UK-based Seaweed Food Company has collaborated with Guernsey Dairy to incorporate algae into dairy products.
Dulse, a red algae from the North Atlantic, and sea lettuce are added to cheese and left to mature for three months.
This not only enhances the flavour but also makes the cheese "cheesier." The same approach is applied to butter, which can be spread on toast or used in various dishes, such as scrambled eggs.
With a myriad of possibilities, including exciting recipes like sea spaghetti-infused onion bhajis, seaweed is set to challenge misconceptions of being "slimy and a bit smelly." Dive into the world of seaweed, and you'll discover a whole new realm of flavours and culinary experiences.