5 delicious and nutritious seaweed recipes by wholefood chef Pete Evans
When you think of seaweed, what first comes to mind? Is it the slimy stuff you see on the beach? Or are you like me and see a super-nutritious ingredient full of awesome health benefits that deserves to be included more regularly in your diet?
As a surfer, I’m a bit of sucker for any flavour or texture that comes from the ocean. Add to that the fact that seaweed is one of nature’s most nutritious (and oldest) plants and imparts a delicious salty, umami flavour to everything it touches and I’m sold on the slimy stuff.
Nutritious & sustainable
One of the world’s most sustainable food sources, seaweed represents up to 15 per cent of the average diet in Asian countries such as Japan. Yet in Western societies, such as Australia and the US, we’re really only just catching the current on the true health benefits of seaweed.
Seaweed requires no fresh water, no land and no fertiliser, so this vitamin-dense ingredient that can feed many is very easy to produce in a sustainable way.
Rich in iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron — as well as vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, amino acids, omega-3 fats and fibre — just one serving of seaweed can provide your body with many key nutrients our modern-day diets lack. It can also be used as an alternative to salt because it provides a salty flavour with more nutrients and a smaller percentage of sodium.
While there’s no denying it packs a punch in flavour and nutrients, the other really cool thing about seaweed is it’s a future food — one that’s available in the wild all year round, naturally regenerating and able to be cultivated sustainably. Seaweed requires no fresh water, no land and no fertiliser, so this vitamin-dense ingredient that can feed many is very easy to produce in a sustainable way.
I also love that seaweed is one of the oldest (and first) plants to ever grow on Earth: seaweed is said to have been in existence for 3.5 billion years. It was used in cooking 3000 years ago and was a staple in every ancient culture on every continent, from Scandinavia to the Americas to the Pacific Islands. Plus, given that different seaweeds grow in different oceans, its uses and traditions varied with available species and climate.
For example, Japan has a tradition of eating kombu that goes back several centuries. Traditional Okinawan cuisine relies heavily on kombu with Okinawa using more kombu per household than any other region of Japan.
Whenever you add an umami-rich food such as seaweed into a broth, it gives it a heartier, fuller flavour.
The reason kombu (better known as kelp in Australia and NZ) is used so much in cooking in Japan is because of the strong flavour the seaweed imparts to any dish. Umami (as this flavour is known) is the cornerstone of dashi, a delicious, classic Japanese seaweed soup used in everything from miso soup to salad dressings.
Interestingly, umami was named by Kikunae Ikeda, a chemist who discovered in 1908 that it was the glutamates in the seaweed soup that made it taste so good. Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids encoded by the standard genetic code and is known to be superb brain food. However, it would take scientists until 2002 to actually identify umami as a fifth taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Whatever its history, as a chef I know that whenever you add an umami-rich food such as seaweed into a broth it gives it a heartier, fuller flavour. Dashi is made from kombu, a brown seaweed. I love infusing kombu for a stock. You simply place all ingredients except the kombu into a pot and simmer slowly. Once it has simmered for 15 minutes, you can add in the kombu strip and steep for at least 10 minutes.
Like all good broths, this flavourful, nutritious stock can be used as a base for soups, stews and gravies. It’s also used throughout Asian cultures as a daily drink to help strengthen the body.
The other reason I reckon these sea vegetables are seriously cool is that seaweed has so many health benefits.
In broad terms, there are three types of seaweed — the aforementioned brown (kombu/kelp), red (dulse, agar and karengo) and green (sea lettuce) — and each one as a bucketload of different nutritional benefits.
Brown seaweeds, for example, are typically rich in iodine and can be used to help nourish the thyroid gland and brain. However, if you do have thyroid issues, you may wish to consult your healthcare practitioner as to what’s best for you. This type of seaweed is also an awesome way to help detoxify the body from heavy metals and environmental toxins.
Along with kombu/kelp, other popular brown seaweeds you can buy from your local Asian supermarket include wakame and sea spaghetti.
Red seaweeds, meanwhile, are the oldest and largest group of algae with over 6000 species worldwide. Their distinctive pigments allow them to survive at great depths and the most popular red species include karengo (aka nori or laver), dulse, agar and sea chicory.
I really love to include karengo in my diet as much as possible. Karengo is a nutritious species of nori found in New Zealand and, from a culinary perspective, I reckon it’s one of the most delicious. The key to serving karengo well is to take care with how you prepare it, as it’s delicate and will burn under intense heat. I love to serve it straight from the packet on top of eggs or we use it dried in one of Nic’s salads because it packs a nutritious punch while providing a really good nutty flavour. When karengo is wet, it works well in Mediterranean dishes or in soups because it has a mild anchovy flavour.
Red seaweeds are an excellent source of minerals, carbohydrates, antioxidants and enzymes, and are generally very high in dietary fibre. They are also rich in agar and carrageenan and have a positive potassium/sodium balance. These varieties of seaweed have excellent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and are a good way to improve the body’s resistance to stress.
Unlike red seaweeds, which occupy the deep, green seaweeds grow closest to the shore and are related to land plants. Known as “emeralds of the sea”, green seaweeds have more minerals than many land-grown vegetables and include a large amount of digestible vegetable protein. They are also an excellent source of chlorophyll.
I like green seaweeds because they are a good way to improve digestion and reduce sugar absorption. They are also known as a natural remedy for gout.
While there are many different species of seaweed and many diverse ways you can use them in the kitchen, the one thing I must flag is — as with any ingredient you use — you should know your source.
It’s something that’s particularly important when it comes to selecting the type of seaweed to cook with because you want to choose seaweed that comes from clean oceans. My suggestion is to source local, wild or sustainably farmed seaweed from the South Pacific Ocean.
Next time you head to the beach, think again when you climb around the rocks and over all that “slimy stuff” just what amazing things it can do for the health of you and your family. And the next time you cook in the kitchen, think about including seaweed somehow because it truly is one of the most nutritious ingredients available in King Neptune’s bounty.
Cook with love and laughter,
Nori Chips With Sesame
Japanese Pork Ramen Soup
Steamed Salmon With Nori & Asian Greens
Chicken & Egg Sushi Roll
Tuna Tartare On Nori Crisps
5 delicious and nutritious seaweed recipes by wholefood chef Pete Evans
Do you like seaweed? Seaweed is a nutritional powerpack but it also gives a delicious umami kick to your cooking. Paleo chef Pete Evans shares 5 delicious seaweed recipes.
- 20g (about 1 cup) bonito flakes, plus extra to serve
- 1 dried kombu sheet, rinsed
- 3 tbsp tamari
- 1¼ nori sheets
- 4 × 150g salmon fillets, skin removed & pin-boned
- 2.5cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 bunch choy sum (about 250g), trimmed & chopped
- 8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- Shiso leaves, to serve
- Combine the bonito flakes, kombu and 1.25 litres of water in a large saucepan over medium–high heat, bring to the boil, take off the heat, then add the tamari and set aside to infuse for 10 mins. Strain the broth into a clean saucepan.
- Cut the nori into four 7cm×20cm strips. Wrap a nori strip around each salmon fillet. Set aside.
- Fill a saucepan with 1.5 litres of water and add the ginger. Place a bamboo steamer over the pan and bring to the boil. Place the salmon in the steamer, cover and cook for 4–5 mins until the fish is slightly pink in the centre.
- Bring the broth back to the boil over medium heat, stir in the miso, then add the choy sum and shiitake mushrooms and simmer for 5 mins, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Divide the vegetables among four serving bowls, pour over the broth, top with a piece of salmon, then scatter on the shiso and extra bonito flakes and serve.