People Use Wakame seaweed because it has a delicious, mild, soft and subtle flavour that gives it great versatility in cooking, and offers incredible health benefits due to the dense nutrients, minerals and vitamins it contains. Pacific Harvest offers a farmed and wild harvested option
The Increasing Popularity of Wakame
Although wakame has been a staple in kitchens across Asia for centuries, it was not until the 1960s that it started to spread to the West, starting off with health and Asian grocery stores, gradually becoming more mainstream. The influence of the macrobiotic movement, and the growing number of Japanese restaurants and sushi shops across New Zealand, in the past couple of decades especially, have resulted in an increased awareness of wakame and it has become a popular choice, such as in miso soup or seaweed salad (goma wakame). New research is raising wakame seaweed’s profile beyond Asian cuisine or as a ‘superfood’ for wellness devotees. Read more about it’s incredible health benefits here and read on for ideas on how to use wakame!
Use Wakame as a Versatile Sea Vegetable
Wakame fronds tend to be deep green like spinach, with a similar, but sweeter, flavour with a fresh salty sea aftertaste, and a silky texture with a slight bite to it, lending them to many applications in a variety of dishes – from soup to salads and more, the culinary versatility of wakame is endless.
Wakame doesn’t need to be cooked. In fact, in its raw state it retains all of its vitamins and natural enzymes so we get the full benefit when we consume it. Dehydrated wakame can be added as is to soups, or quickly re-hydrated to make salads or used in endless other ways in a variety of dishes as you would other vegetables.
Umami Flavour – What is the White Powder on a Wakame Frond?
Wakame is increasingly popular for its ability to add a savoury depth of flavour to cooking, through the ‘sixth taste’, umami. You may notice, particularly on the wild harvested wakame, a white powder which settles on the leaf. Some mistake this for mould, but it is in fact the source of the amazing umami flavour. This is an amino acid called glutamine which rises to the surface of the leaf as it dries. This white powder is prized by Japanese chefs – the more of it on the frond the deeper the flavour can be. When you use wakame in your cooking, you are adding this incredible nutrient rich flavour, naturally.
How do I Use Wakame Seaweed?
Wakame is best preserved when it is in its dry state so only soak what you need. To rehydrate wakame, soak it in water for 3-5 minutes (it will expand 6-10 times its dried size). To add to a recipe, soak wakame in stock, herbal/fruit tea or flavoured water. Since the soaking water is sweet and full of nutrients, don’t throw it out! You can drink it as a beverage on its own or use as a base for drinks, broths, stews or soups as you would stock.
Visit our recipe section for culinary inspiration, or try out these ideas on how to use wakame in your kitchen:
- Stir-fries: Add the re-hydrated leaves or fronds to a stir fry with soba noodles, fish, mushrooms, daikon or other vegetables.
- Asian style salads: Rehydrate the wakame seaweed and add sesame seeds and a simple Asian dressing to create the delicious seaweed salad you can buy in sushi shops
- Poke bowls and soups: Combine with noodles, grains, shrimp and avocado for a filling and nutritious meal. Make your own miso soup!
- Mashed potato or fish cakes: Add the chopped leaves to mashed potato as a side dish or to croquettes or potato patties to combine with smoked fish and make into fish cakes.
- Baking: For a savoury depth in baking, add finely chopped leaves or fronds to biscuit or bread dough, or even cake batter if you’re keen to experiment!
- Butter: Try adding finely chopped wakame seaweed to softened salted butter for an umami spread or dip for sourdough bread, or even on top of steak.
- Wrapping Fish: Use the full leaves to wrap around fish before steaming or baking for a succulent finish.
Wakame is not native in New Zealand but it grows well here in our marine environment and climate. Learn more about its traditions and history here. It has remarkable health benefits and is a wonderful way to boost nutrient intake.