HYDERABAD: The first few things that come to our mind when we think of seafood are usually fish and shellfish. But these aren’t the only edible foods from the sea. Many tend to overlook seaweed, a form of edible algae that grows along rocky shorelines. This is most commonly eaten in Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea, and has slowly made its way into Hyderabad’s restaurants too through Asian cuisines and restaurants.
Seaweeds tend to have a salty, rich and savoury taste known as umami and adds texture, flavour, and nutrition to a dish, says chef Amit Chauhan, corporate chef at Fat Pigeon and Chubby Cho unit of Taste Budders Hospitality. “Seaweed has a good taste of umami. There are two broad types: fresh and dry. Fresh seaweed is used in making seafood dishes or in soups and dry seaweed is used in making strong umami-tasting food. There are quite a few types of seaweed such as wakame, kombu, nori, hijiki and mekabu which can be used in cooking. The method of making it depends on the type of seaweed used.”
Amit goes on to say that dried seaweed is commonly found in Hyderabad as it is immensely versatile. It can be used in sushi rolls, soups, stews, salads and smoothies. It is good for health as it contains many antioxidants in the form of vitamins A, C, and E and protective pigments. “It has a decent amount of iodine, a trace mineral vital for health and function of the thyroid,” he says. Some seaweeds, such as purple laver, contain a good amount of B12 as well and are a rich source of protein and fiber, he says.
Kaushal Kumar, chef at Hashi, who says seaweed adds a natural ‘sea-salty’ flavour to food, explains how it can be used in cooking. “Dried seaweed needs to be rehydrated before using. You have to boil it for a few minutes until it’s tender. Whereas for fresh seaweed, you have to rinse it before boiling it, then coat with salt. If it is not rinsed, it will taste very salty.”
He goes on to say that the most common type of seaweed used is wakame and that it can be crumbled over soups for furikake seasoning or with rice bowls, ramen bowls, broths and salads. “Wakame can be used to make a Japanese seaweed salad. You can slice the vegetables of your choice, boil wakame for five-eight minutes, turn off the heat and soak the dried seaweed in hot water for a few minutes. Strain it, rinse with some cold running water, chop it and add it to your vegetables and pour in a dressing. Mix well and sprinkle with white sesame seeds. Your salad is ready.”
This sea-like tasting ingredient can also be deep fried, roasted or boiled depending on the dish being prepared, says Kaushal.