Monday, August 10, 2009

Fresh Wakame!!

Sea vegetables are extremely nutritious, offering many trace elements unavailable in land-based produce these days, including iodine and potassium. Iodine is important for thyroid function, and sea vegies are even a source of Vitamin B12, which vegans can sometimes lack.

Of the sea vegies, wakame is the tenderest and (if you're unused to eating seaweed) the easiest to eat. Fresh wakame, which I used to feast on every day in Japan, is even better. And - an interesting development - it looks as though Australian chefs are discovering it.

Wakame is currently classified as a noxious weed by the Department of Primary Industries. However the interesting thing from an environmental viewpoint is that wakame can thrive in polluted waters and actually improve the quality of those waters. Growing seaweed is currently under trial as one of several industries that could transform saline water into usable water, thus turning semi-arid rural areas of Australia into productive agricultural land.

If you've got wakame in your local shops, here are some ways to use it:

Wakame in Miso Soup
Real miso soup is so easy I wonder why people still use that packaged, over-salty stuff.
For good Japanese-style stock you need a piece of konbu, another sea vegetable. Or if you are a fish eater you can use several dried anchovies or dried tuna flakes, both available in Asian grocers.
Bring the konbu or fish to boil for ten minutes, then remove (I often leave them in and eat them)
Add vegetables of choice and simmer till al dente.
Dissolve miso to taste.
How easy could that be?
A wonderful and easy variation of miso soup is simply to lightly simmer a handful of dried wakame and a half-block of silken tofu, cubed. Then add the miso.

Wakame Salad
You can probably find a lot of recipes for this all over the web, but my simple, foolproof method is:
Rehydrate quarter of a cup of pelleted wakame, or a whole cup of dried wakame strips, by soaking ten minutes in cool water. Drain.
Add a chopped tomato or two.
Season with a teaspoon of tamari soy sauce mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of sesame oil. Voila!

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