Seaweed, The Different Types

The Different Types of Seaweed

Seaweed has long been prized as an excellent source of minerals. It provides an abundance of minerals, plus other nutrients such as vitamins A and C (especially Konbu) and protein (especially nori). It is also one of the very few non-animal sources of vitamin B12, a lack of which can be dangerous as it leads to pernicious anaemia.

Seaweed is therefore very useful for strict vegetarians. It helps to prevent cancer and heart disease, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and can even prevent ulcers and kill bacteria.

It also thins the blood. In one test, a chemical from wakame seaweed was shown to be twice as effective as the drug heparin at destroying blood clots.

These are the most common varieties of seaweed eaten in Japan.

Konbu - This is very dark green, almost black, and more rubbery in texture. Used for 'dashi' (basic stock) and in nimono. Sometimes eaten with rice as shio-konbu, which is dried and salted, either in small squares or in thin strands - more of an 'acquired taste', rather like 'Marmite' or licorice.

Nori - This is also the most palatable as it is dry and does not have a strong taste. It comes in sheets, looking like dark green paper.

Wakame - This type of seaweed is usually in the form of thin pieces, mid-green and not too strong, often eaten in misoshiru (soup) or pickled with vegetables like thin slices of cucumber in rice vinegar and a little sugar.

Hijiki - Thin, black strands, sometimes fried (in sesame oil or vegetable oil). You can add thin matchstick size pieces of carrot and/or bean curd and served as a side dish.

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