You may be saying to yourself, "There is NO way my kid is going to willingly eat seaweed or any other sea vegetable." Don't give up: there are so many surprising ways to prepare these delicious and nutritious gifts from the sea. And there are more than 10,000 different species of sea vegetables -- there has to be at least a few your family will eat! It's definitely worth trying different types of seaweed in varied presentations considering the health benefits: fiber, protein, and high (and highly absorbable) mineral content including iron and calcium and Vitamins A,B, and C. Sea vegetables are a mainstay on the macrobiotic diet, but don't think we're going all Gwyneth Paltrow on you: these sea vegetable recommendations are kid-friendly yet sophisticated enough that you'll be munching more sea veggies as well! Our list gets progressively more adventurous, so jump in with some of the "easier" sea veggies, like nori and agar-agar, and then venture through the rest of the list until your family become seaweed aficionados. Read on for 6 types of sea veggies that we use often in our own family's cooking.
We thought we’d start off with an easy entrance into the world of seaweed. Nori is the dark green stuff that goes around the rice and veggies in sushi rolls. It can be raw or toasted, and it’s a great vehicle for rolling up virtually anything. In addition to traditional sushi fillings, nori can be rolled around hummus, cooked and cooled veggies of any sort, or any other dip or spread you feel adventurous enough to try. Nori is a super versatile sea veggie: there’s an ice cream shop near my family that actually offers nori crumbles as a topping. We typically use it in slightly more traditional (savory) ways — many stores sell packages of plain or flavored nori, which my kids love to snack on. Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet includes a super delicious recipe for Caesar salad, and she tops hers with strips of nori. You can crumble dulse flakes, another type of seaweed, over salads for some crunch.
Agar-agar flakes or powder make for a wonderful gelling agent. We use them in puddings and vegan lemon and mango bars as well as vegan cream pies. You can use agar to make vegan JELLO or a macrobiotic dessert/snack called kanten, which is super soothing for upset tummies. Agar turns liquids into a firmer, yet still creamy feel — and it’s totally vegan!
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3. Irish Moss
Here’s another thing to add to those beloved and fortifying morning smoothies: Irish moss. Irish moss comes in dried form. You soak it in warm water and it gets totally slimy (as you might expect from seaweed). When added to smoothies or homemade nut milks, it adds a creamy texture, and you should not be able to taste any residual seaweed flavor. However, do not confuse Irish moss with its processed cousin carrageenan. Carrageenan can be found in many products including organic ones such as yogurts, milks, puddings. It has been linked with digestive inflammation, so steer clear!
Wakame is a flavored ingredient for one of my favorite appetizers: deliciously healing miso soup. Miso soup is endlessly adaptable: I often add a few types of mushrooms, carrots, and onions to my broth as well as chopped tofu. Traditional miso soup recipes often call for wakame (and often kombu). The wakame is usually chopped up and floating around in miso soup. If you are making the miso soup from scratch, you can cut the wakame into very small bites so that your tots won’t be intimidated by this sea veggie. The kombu is often used to make the soup’s broth. Kombu is also used when boiling beans as it helps make them easier to digest. When you order a seaweed salad at a Japanese restaurant, wakame is often one of the included types of seaweed.
Arame is a lovely light seaweed that is delicious in cold salads and in Asian salsas — I can literally sit and eat a whole bowl. It does, however, look like it belongs at the beach, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for arame turnovers in Christina Pirello’s Christina Cooks or Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet that is super yummy and hides the potentially controversial looking sea veggie. These crunchy little packets of goodness are delectable, and because the arame is cooked with carrots, shallots, and corn, kids won’t be able to tell there’s seaweed. The turnovers are good enough to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at a party!
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One of my favorite dishes to order at a Japanese restaurant is marinated hijiki and carrots. If your family is likely to balk at the appearance of this dish, try some tofu hijiki burger. Bonus: hijiki is thought to aid in the growth of healthy hair! With every sea veggie, you don’t have to eat a ton to reap the benefits, so try incorporating small amounts into some appropriate dishes. You may be surprised at how quickly and enthusiastically your family adopts these umami gifts from the sea!