Samui Wining & Dining
Vegetable From the Sea

Seaweed is just full of surprises. .

Thailand,wining,dining,samui,koh,samui,map,siammap,samuimap,holiday,escape,vacation,food,travel,backpack,hotel,roomAsk someone if they’re having seaweed for dinner and they’re likely to think you’ve gone mad. Ask them if they’re having sushi for dinner and it’s almost certain that seaweed will feature somewhere in there, wrapped around a rice and avocado square. You might be surprised how often seaweed is used in cooking around the world.

When we think of seaweed, we tend to think of something found in the ocean waving gently with the current, giving fish a place to play hide and seek, it’s not something we think about eating. Most edible seaweeds are marine algae, and most freshwater algae are toxic, so make sure you don’t eat any old seaweed!

But in fact there are many different type of seaweed that can be eaten. It has been a staple food in Japan, Korea and China since prehistoric times, but it’s also eaten extensively in Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. More than 21 species are used in everyday cooking in Japan, six of them since the 8th century. In the West, seaweed is generally regarded as a health food, and although its popularity is increasing, it is unlikely that it will ever be as popular as it is in Japan.

Hawaiians and Polynesians cultivate kelp farms, and the ancient Greeks regularly ate edible seaweed. And the Thai dish ‘Khang Jead Woon Sen Moo’ is a clear glass noodle soup with minced pork, bean curd and seaweed. Any food with such a wide-ranging history of use across various cultures and time periods deserves a little respect.

Palmaria palmata is edible red seaweed that has been used in Ireland and Scotland for many centuries. Various red algae have been used in the Mediterranean as sources of dyeing agents and as other health remedies since pre-Christian times. Chondrus crispus, also known as Irish moss, is a common thickening agent. It grows along the rocky coasts of Europe and North America, and softens into a jelly-like substance when heated in a liquid.

In the Caribbean, it is boiled until it becomes like jelly, vanilla or cinnamon flavouring is added, and it’s topped off with rum and milk. This recipe is supposed to fight impotence and have aphrodisiacqualities. The Irish and Scottish boil it into a tapioca-like dessert. In the Philippines, there is a type of noodle which is made from seaweed. They use it to cook their traditional noodle dish of ‘Pancit Canton’ or ‘Pancit Luglug’. These dishes are a staple in the Philippines, second only to rice.

Kelp is the most readily available type of edible seaweed, and in China its use dates back to at least the 5th century. It is most often found in its dried form, but soaking it for a few minutes makes it edible and it can then be used for cooking. Plants are dried after harvesting and either cut into strips or powdered.

Kombu is a brown algae and a type of kelp most commonly eaten in Japan. It comes dried, easily added to soups or broths, or it can be eaten fresh as sashimi. It is used in the preparation of fish, meat dishes, soups and also as a vegetable with rice.

Wakame is often used in miso soups or simple broths, floating in thin strips. It has a similar nutritional value to kombu and other kelps. Arame is brown Japanese kelp and is used mainly in Japan, China, and Korea, but is also used in Peruvian and Indonesian cuisine. It has a sweet, mild flavour, Thailand,wining,dining,samui,koh,samui,map,siammap,samuimap,holiday,escape,vacation,food,travel,backpack,hotel,roommaking it a great sea vegetable for beginners. Try sautéing soaked, drained arame with winter squash, onions, butter, and a bit of chilli pepper for a great side dish for grilled meat or fish. 

Dulse is a red seaweed that attaches itself to rocks in the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific oceans. It is often shredded, dried, and sprinkled on soups, but fresh dulse can also be sautéed with butter and garlic, or rubbed with olive oil and salt, and roasted in the oven to make crisps.

The most popular and well-known seaweed in Japan is nori, and you’ve probably seen it wrapped around your rice when eating sushi. It is cultivated in Japan, Korea and China. Of all Japan’s products from marine culture, nori has the highest production (followed by oysters).

 Alaria esculenta, sometimes called dabberlocks, badderlocks, or winged kelp, is a traditional sea vegetable found in the far North Atlantic. Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, and Ireland all use it in their traditional foods. It’s a brown seaweed, and is traditionally dried, then added to soups and stews. A big strip of it apparently goes well in a pot of chilli and increases the mineral content considerably.


Seaweed is sometimes harvested or cultivated to extract a gelatinous substance known as hydrocolloids, used nowadays as a food additive. The food industry uses it for its gelling, water retention and emulsifying properties.

Carrageenan is extracted from red edible seaweed and is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin. It is used in desserts, ice cream, cream, milkshakes, salad dressings, sweetened condensed milks, and sauces to increase viscosity. Thailand’s bestselling snack is Tao Kae Noi, a bag of crispy fried seaweed. It comes in different flavours such as original, hot and spicy and tom yum.

Seaweed contains high levels of iodine and because of this, brown kelp has been used to treat goitre, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by a lack of iodine, since medieval times. It is also high in fibre and various minerals. This can sometimes give you over 2,000% of the recommended daily allowance, so if you’re looking to add more iodine to your diet, this is a good way.

So it’s time to respect seaweed a little more - it’s so much more than just a vegetable from the sea.

Colleen Setchell


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