Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Spring Seaweed Snacks for Health

Posh Spice eats laver seaweed and so do I. I remember reading about Victoria Beckham's sea vegetable consumption for weight maintenance in 2011. Not all Chinese Americans are exposed to kelp and laver sea vegetables but it was part of my childhood diet. Yes, I lived near Berkeley but it wasn't because of a macrobiotic food trend.

Photo Credit: Chenhai Laver
For me fungus as kitchen staples such as snow lichen and black wood ears were as common as having chicken, on hand, for dinner.

My grandma was known for her steamed chicken with light soy, shitake mushrooms, black wood ears, and ginger slivers. It helped warm my blood during winter when I ate this with jasmine rice.

How did our family get their supply of seaweed in the 1980s? Grandma traveled to San Francisco to buy groceries for my parents. She'd return laden with plastic Asian grocery bags full of fresh produce and discs of laver sea vegetables. In the 1990s, my parents moved closer to Oakland so the commute for Asian groceries became less difficult. 

If you are interested in seaweed to buy for cooking, you can find roasted nori in the ethnic aisle of most chain supermarkets. In 2012,you can find freshly packed seaweed salad at Whole Foods, dried sea vegetables at Sprouts and roasted seaweed at Trader Joe's. This is appealing to non-Chinese also who follow a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diet. 

If you don't know much about seaweed as food, you can watch a clip about a sea vegetable farmer on Chow's Obsessives. You may have already encountered seaweed as a snack at Trader Joe's if you've tried their 99-cent roasted seaweed snacks. You might have taken a sip or two of miso soup at a Japanese restaurant and tasted a hint of wakame sea vegetable. Maybe you are reading this because you are already a seaweed connoisseur and want another recipe for chucka salad.

If you believe in Chinese herbal remedies or follow Taoist dietary suggestions, seaweed is considered a cooling food. "Cooling foods" help rehydrate the body after consumption of too many fried or spicy foods. Some say this is a good diet after St. Patty's Day celebrations. 

Photo Credit: Renee Marchol's Kitchen Trader Joe's Miso Soup
3. Miso Soup

Laver Tofu Eggdrop Soup

1/4 disc of dried laver
8 cups of water
10 oz tofu
2 oz green onions
chicken or vegetable bullion (optional)
1/4 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 egg whites 

1. Soak the dried laver in 4 cups in water for 8 hours. Swish and strain to remove sand. 
2. Set 4 cups of water in a stock pot to bill. Add the cleaned, softened laver. Season with bullion if desired. Add ginger and cubed tofu. Simmer for 45 minutes. 
3. Beat the egg whites in a bowl. Pour the egg whites in a stream while stirring the soup with a wooden spoon. Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions. 

Note: You can omit the egg and chicken bullion to make this a vegan meal. You also have the option of selecting silken, soft, firm or extra firm tofu. Avoid the crispy, deep-fried tofu if you are making this dish as a cooling tonic. 

Happy Seaweed Snacking!

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