Sea Vegetable Cuisine by Aveline Kushi
Each spring a fisherman's wife from Oki Island on the Sea of Japan would
journey to our mountain village and go door to door selling sea vegetables.
Strapped on her back was dried wakame, a chief ingredient used in making
miso soup. Wakame usually comes in long thin strips, but this wakame
was specially dried in large sheets like nori, the sea vegetable used
in wrapping sushi. My mother bought sufficient quantity to last the coming
year. The wakame was so nice and tender that it didn't need cooking.
We cut it with scissors, roasted it briefly over an open flame, and used
it in teas, for snacks, in miso soup, as an addition to daikon pickles,
crushed as a condiment on top of brown rice, or as wrapping for rice
In my youth I took seaweeds for granted, and it wasn't until I was unable
to get them in later life that I fully appreciated their value. Once
in 1952, during my first pregnancy, I was in Paris and craved sea vegetables
but couldn't find any. While trooping around the streets, I came upon
a fish market and discovered a bunch of clams sitting in a bed of giant
kelp. I offered to buy the kelp, but the shopkeeper, surprised at my
desire to devour the seaweed instead of the clams, readily gave me the
slimy green substance. The kelp was very tough, but I cooked it a long
time, and it satisfied my need for extra minerals.
For optimal health, we need to balance foods that grow above the ground
with those that grow below the sea. The deep ocean from which primordial
life evolved, has a salty composition similar to human blood. Sea vegetables
are high in iron, calcium, iodine, Vitamins A, B12, C, and other nutrients
and are a perfect complement to whole grains, beans, and vegetables growing
on land. The fiber is sea plants is softer than in land plants and more
digestible. Wild bears, deer, foxes, and domesticated horses and cattle
along coastal regions all naturally nibble seaweed and algae on the rocks
and shore. By eating a small amount of this ancient form of life each
day, we strengthen our bodies, experience more the energy of the earth
as a whole, and develop toward universal consciousness.
Most Westerners who are not accustomed to sea vegetables at first find
their flavor, smell, and texture foreign. However, properly cooked and
introduced into the diet gradually, these vegetables become truly appetizing
and are soon viewed as an integral part of the new way of eating.
In the beginning I recommend started with arame, nori, and dulse, which
are milder tasting, and then moving on to kombu, wakame, and hiziki,
which are stronger and more flavorful. Arame has a naturally sweet taste
and light texture which lends itself to serving as a small side dish
and is the seaweed most commonly enjoyed by newcomers. Nori comes in
sheets which can be lightly toasted for a few seconds over an open flame
and can be used in wrapping sushi or rice balls or crushed and sprinkled
on soups, salads, grains, or vegetables. Dulse usually comes in thin
strips or in powder form and also can be roasted and used as a condiment.
Wakame, kombu, and hiziki may be introduced in small amounts, especially
in miso soups and in combination with root vegetables or whole soybeans.
Long-time cooking changes their aroma, and their fishy taste and smell
disappear. It also makes them tender and more digestible. A little kombu
enhances the taste of grains and beans and shortens their cooking time.
Simply place a 3- to 6-inch piece of kombu beneath the other ingredients
in the pressure cooker or pot. This is a simple way to make the acquaintance
of this savory sea vegetable as is kombu stock, the basic broth for noodles
Arame with Onions
1 ounce dried arame 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil 2 medium-sized onions,
sliced Spring water 2 to 3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Wash and drain the arame. Brush a frying pan with the oil and heat it.
Add the onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Place the arame on top of
the onions and add water to just cover the onions. Bring to a boil, turn
the heat to low, and add a small amount of tamari soy sauce. Cover and
simmer for about 40 to 50 minutes. Add more tamari soy sauce to taste.
The mixture should have a mild salt taste but not be overly salty. Simmer
for another 15 to 20 minutes and then mix and stir until the liquid has
Kombu and Dried Daikon
2 strips kombu 3 to 4 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, stemmed, and sliced
1/2 cup dried daikon, soaked and sliced Vegetable soaking water Tamari
Wash, soak, and thinly slice the kombu. Put the kombu in a pot with the
shiitake. Set the dried daikon on top. Add the soaking water to just
cover and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for
40 to 45 minutes, or until the kombu is very soft. Season with a little
tamari soy sauce to taste and simmer until remaining liquid has almost
Wakame and Scallions with Miso-Rice Vinegar Sauce
1 ounce dried wakame Spring water 1/2 cup sliced scallions 2 teaspoons
pureed barley miso 4 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
Wash, soak, and slice the wakame into small pieces. Put the wakame in
a saucepan with a little water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low,
and cover. Simmer several minutes. Remove, drain, and let cool. Transfer
the wakame to a bowl and mix in the sliced scallions. Put the pureed
barley miso and brown rice vinegar in a suribachi and puree. Add a little
water and further puree until smooth and creamy. Mix the miso-rice vinegar
sauce in with the wakame and scallions.
Toasted Nori Squares
4 sheets nori Grated fresh ginger Tamari soy sauce Mirin
Toast the sheets of nori and cut them into small squares. Place several
squares of nori on each individual serving plate. Place a pinch of grated
ginger and 2 to 3 drops of tamari soy sauce and mirin (a sweet cooking
wine) on each serving.
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