In Japanese food, seaweed, a form of algae, is an important ingredient. Algae usually grow in seawater and are often harvested after about a year. The taste is sometimes very subtle, but also nutty or salty and spicy. A lot of fiber, minerals and vitamins characterize this varied ingredient. The iodine content of algae is quite high, which is why consumption is only recommended in moderation, especially for people with an overactive thyroid.
Now we come to the subtleties: which type of algae is suitable for which dish?
Wakame is a type of brown algae that originally grew on the coasts of East Asia and is now widespread elsewhere. It becomes up to a meter long. In Japan, wakame is mainly used as a topping for miso soups due to its strong aroma. But this type of algae is also very suitable for a separate salad, garnished with lots of sesame. Wakame is often obtained frozen in Japan and dried in Europe. If wakame has been stored dry, it is soaked in lukewarm water before it is good to use in food preparation.
Kombu is also a brown alga with an even higher iodine content than wakame. It grows mainly in cultivated areas in cold and clear water. Wild kombu grows off the island of Hokkaido and is up to ten meters long. Kombu is mainly used as a basic ingredient in dashi soups. In addition, kombu is used in various small snacks in Japan. Even tea can be made from this type of algae. Dried kombu is also placed in water before use or used as a powder as a spice.
Nori sheets are made from red or green algae and are mainly used for sushi to roll up rice. In a process that is similar to papermaking, the fresh freshwater algae are processed into square leaves. Then the nori sheets are dried or roasted. The taste of nori is mild and slightly sweet. If nori is cut into strips or crumbled, many dishes, such as udon, soba or salads, can also be garnished. As a type of algae, nori has a relatively low iodine content. Which alga is your favorite now?
MYCONBINI tip: You will find all three types of algae in our ingredients category.