Seaweed – The Unsung Superfood from the Sea
Since my first trip to Japan I’ve been intrigued by seaweed. I love everything about it. Its health benefits, the unlimited ways you can use it in cooking and how it smells of the ocean. One of my true passions is creating recipes in my kitchen by fusing local Irish ingredients with Japanese flavours, and Irish seaweed is one of the key ingredients that allows me to do this.
In Ireland our ancestors relied heavily on seaweed as a source of nutrition and foraged for it themselves. Unfortunately over the years this appreciation and knowledge for seaweed was lost and forgotten. However, in recent years there has been a revival in seaweed consumption in Ireland. Follow my guide to all things seaweed; from its health benefits, to how to incorporate it into your diet.
The main health benefits of seaweed:
– Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
– Anti-cancerous benefits. There has been a link between seaweed playing a role in lowering the risk of estrogen-related cancers including breast cancer.
– Excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B-12 and iodine (helping to maintain a healthy thyroid)
– Unique mineral content including an excellent source of iron, magnesium and calcium
The main types of seaweed:
– Kelp (Kombu)
– Sea lettuce
– Sea Spaghetti
Simple ways to include seaweed into your everyday kitchen:
– Simply place milled dillisk or kelp on your table instead of salt and pepper
– Add seaweed to marinades, dressings, soups, stews, smoothies and juices (1 teaspoon of milled dried seaweed will not overpower the original recipe).
– Make a simple stock (dashi) by soaking dried kelp in cold water. Use the stock as a base for soups, stews or stir fries.
– Season butter or oil with dried seaweed such as sea lettuce, nori, dillisk and kelp.
– Make dried seasoning (furikake) with milled seaweed (i.e. dillisk, nori or kombu) and mix with other ingredients such as white/black sesame seeds, chilli powder etc. Then, sprinkle over dishes, soups or salads.
– Make a traditional Irish carrageen moss pudding
Where can I buy seaweed in Ireland?
You can get a selection of Irish seaweeds in large supermarkets, health stores and fish mongers. Here are some of my favourite Irish seaweed products:
– Sea of Vitality products include dried milled dillisk and dried milled kelp in a small glass jar. They also have a dry bread mix with seaweed. Their products can be found in some Supervalu stores and speciality stores around Ireland.
– Wild Irish Sea Veg have a variety of seaweed products including nori, dillisk, kelp, carrageen etc. These are packaged as dried seaweed strips or milled seaweed.
Learn more about seaweed:
There is plenty of expertise in Ireland if you want to learn more about seaweed. Prannie Rhatigan, who wrote the “Irish Seaweed Kitchen”, and Sally McKenna, who wrote “Extreme Greens”, are both extremely knowledgeable on this subject and often give talks and foraging workshops on seaweed. If you fancy Michelin star seaweed inspired dishes go to the restaurants of well-known and respected chefs Kevin Thornton, of Thornton’s, and JP McMahon, of Aniar Restaurant; two chefs who are passionate about using Irish seaweed in creative ways.
I often meet people at my cooking classes that are initially reluctant to eat or use seaweed in their cooking at home but once they understand how easy it is to use seaweed, and that it tastes a lot milder than expected, they embrace it along with all the wonderful things it can bring to your table and diet.
A self-taught cook, food-writer and author, Fiona Uyema is one of Ireland’s leading Japanese cooks and cookery instructors. Passionate about bringing the art of Japanese home-cooking into kitchens across the country and further afield, her first book, Japanese Food Made Easy was published in September 2015.
Fiona now lives in Co. Kildare with her husband and two sons where she teaches workshops, provides corporate classes on the art of Japanese cooking, provides consultancy to restaurants and the food industry and blogs about her Japanese food adventures on Fiona’s Japanese Cooking Blog.
Fiona Uyema’s love of the Japanese language, culture and cuisine began in Dublin City University where she studied Japanese and International Marketing. She then spent three years living in the beautiful village of Nishiyama. After her introduction to her now husband Gilmar, her love of Japan was sealed.