What is wakame? A definition
Wakame is a thin and stringy sea vegetable, more commonly known as seaweed, deep green in color and used in making seaweed salad and miso soup. Wakame seaweed is common in Japanese cooking and other Asian cuisines.
While nori, the seaweed used for rolling sushi, which you may be more familiar with, is usually sold dried, wakame can be found either dried or fresh, in a refrigerated, and sealed package.
When refrigerated, the wakame seaweed is preserved with sea salt and, though it seems wet, it is actually partially dry so that it’s moist to the touch, but not completely dried out and dehydrated and brittle like the nori sheets used in making sushi.
Wakame Nutritional Information
Along with the increased popularity of both the raw vegan food diet (also called living foods) and macrobiotic diets, wakame, has gained in popularity in the west. Proponents of both macrobiotic and raw foods diet extol the life-giving and healthful properties of wakame along with other sea vegetables and sea weeds. Wakame has long been an important ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Interestingly enough, wakame does have some nutritional properties which make it incredibly healthy, particularly for vegetarians and vegans, as it is remarkably high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
According to CalorieCount, one serving of wakame seaweed, or about two tablespoons provides:
Calories 5, Calories from Fat 1
Total Fat 0.1g, Saturated Fat 0g, Polyunsaturated Fat 0g, Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Dietary Fiber 0.1g
Vitamin A 1%, Vitamin C 1%, Calcium 2%, Iron 1%
How to prepare wakame
Use kitchen shears to cut wakame into desired size, as it can be tough to cut with a knife.
Remember, seaweed will expand significantly when rehydrated, so cut into pieces much smaller than the desired finishing size. If your wakame has a thick stem, remove this part, as it’s not edible.
The friendly proprietors of family-owned Nikka Japanese Market in Santa Barbara, California tell me its best to soak fresh wakame for around a half an hour before using, to reduce the saltiness. Browner varieties have a stronger flavor, while the greener seaweeds and sea vegetables are more mild.
Wakame is often served in a small side salad dressed in rice vinegar and soy sauce, or in a Japanese marinated cucumber side salad called sunomono with vinegar and a touch of sugar, salt, and ginger. Sunomono is a popular Japanese appetizer that you may have had when out for sushi, though it's not always prepared with wakame. Some people like to add a it of wakame to a vegetable stir-fry dish, but the most common way I use wakame is to add it to a homemade miso soup.
Recipes using wakame seaweed
Ready to try your hand at using some wakame seaweed in your own kitchen? Head out to your local Asian grocery store to stock up and then browse through these recipes:
- Vegetable miso soup
- Japanese seaweed and cucumber salad
- Japanese wakame and daikon salad
- See also: What is oshinko?
- See also: Vegetarian and vegan Japanese food recipes to try at home