Seaweed is a type of marine algae used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cooking since millennia ago. There are many types of seaweed cultivated across Asia and Europe, the final products of which are most commonly used in sushi, soups and agar. Agar is a term used in Southeast Asia to refer to a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed, used in foods such as Jello and pudding.
High in fiber and iodine, seaweed has long been lauded for its youth boosting nutritional content. Outside of Asia, seaweed is typically sold in several formats. As pictured above, one form is seaweed bits mixed together with other dried ingredients including Shiitake mushroom and scallions. This form is great for making seaweed soup.
Another very common format is nori sheets, the large rectangular shaped black sheets of seaweed used for sushi. A variation of this comes in the exact same black hue but cut into smaller sheets and seasoned with salt, sweet soy sauce or similar variations. The latter is very popular as a side dish in Korean cuisine and as a snack on its own.
Wakame is another popular and famous type of seaweed- probably the most commonly sold variety next to nori sheets. Dried Wakame is of course black and comes in bunches larger than the picture above. Many forms of Wakame need to be cut before cooking since they expand and are too large to eat as they are. Asian markets often sell Wakame in three forms- dried in clear plastic packages, fresh in refrigerated sections and as ready to eat Wakame Salad, the latter taking on a green hue made infamous by Japanese restaurants in the West.
Our favorite recipes with seaweed: