Unless you’re Japanese, here are some words you’ve probably never heard: “Honey, we’re running low on wakame! Don’t forget to pick up another bag!”
But perhaps they should be. Sea vegetables (wakame is one) are one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods. Sea vegetables make up 10% of a typical Japanese diet, and guess what people live longer than any other in the world? (Hint: it ain’t Americans.)
The ocean provides us with thousands of varieties of vegetables. Some varieties have a fishier taste than others, but marinating the vegetables in a lemon or vinegar dressing will offset that fishiness. My favorite varieties are wakame, arame, toasted nori and kombu. Because of its mild taste, arame is great for kids and those who’ve never tried seaweed. You can find all these varieties in most health food stores. They come dried in small bags and require soaking in water to rejuvenate, but are otherwise easy to store and can be kept on hand for days for when you need a good nutrition kick.
Below is a recipe for my favorite seaweed salad. You’ve probably had a similar dish at Japanese restaurants. The restaurant version has a lot of added sugar. Instead of sugar I use orange segments for a delicious sweet and salty contrast. This salad is easy to prepare and goes well with an array of main dishes, from baked fish to veggie stir-fries to steak or grilled chicken. Try it as a side with my Miso-marinated Grilled Chicken. I promise you’ll be happy and healthy!
Cucumber Wakame Salad with Oranges
Recipe adapted from the Natural Gourmet Institute
Yield: 5 servings
- 1 pound cucumbers (small variety preferred)
- ½ oz wakame (approx. ½ cup)
- 3 navel oranges
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- sea salt
- toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Wash and score cucumbers along length with a fork and slice thinly. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain excess liquid and rinse lightly if cucumbers taste too salty.
Soak wakame for 15 minutes in cold water, drain and chop.
Peel and segment the oranges.
Add wakame to cucumbers. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Toss together with orange segments. Refrigerate until read to serve. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy.
Elyse Kopecky is a social media consultant and whole foods chef based in Portland, OR. After 10 years working for NIKE and EA SPORTS she left her desk job for the chance to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at freshabits.com and @freshabits.