If you’ve gone swimming in the ocean and had a slimy, green plant graze your leg, you’ve probably encountered seaweed. I’m not a fan of being pet by seaweed, but I’m a big fan of eating it! However, I’m not going to lie; I had my doubts about seaweed at first.
Seaweed is a staple in cuisines around the world. Recently, it has become a very trendy food item, with a variety of seaweed snacks hitting the shelves. It also plays a big role in Japanese cuisine and can be found in many miso soup recipes.
If you’re not familiar with it, seaweed is the name given for a wide variety of marine plants and algae that grow and flourish in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and other marine environments. The different kinds vary significantly. Some seaweed is extremely tiny, like phytoplankton, some are massive, like kelp, whilst some are just medium-sized.
So, you might be wondering – what does seaweed taste like? Fortunately, it tastes much better than you might think. Though it depends on several factors, seaweed generally has a salty and umami flavor.
Let’s dive into knowing more about seaweed. Maybe we’ll stop frantically swimming away from it when it slides upon our leg!
What Does Seaweed Taste Like?
If you’ve never tasted seaweed, you might be hesitant to try it. Yes, eating a plant from the sea doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing, but the actual taste is both surprising and predictable.
The taste of seaweed is “not a one size fits all” case. Different kinds of seaweed have differences in flavor. Also, the seaweed’s preparation, form, and origin play a significant role in its taste.
If you ask anyone what seaweed tastes like, you’ll most probably hear the words salty or briny. It would make sense for something from the ocean to taste, well, ocean-like. Seaweed is very salty and minerally. That is the flavor that you’ll probably be hit with the most.
Luckily, there’s more to seaweed’s flavor than just salt. Seaweed has an intense taste that is spicy and certainly umami. In Japanese, umami means “essence of deliciousness” and refers to the fifth basic taste. It is mainly described as meaty and savory deliciousness. The reason for this umami taste is seaweed’s high glutamic acid content.
One concern people have with eating seaweed is that it might taste fishy. Breaking news! It does. It tastes like the sea but not overly fishy. That is why some people say that the taste of seaweed is an acquired one.
As mentioned earlier, different kinds of seaweed have distinct flavors. For example, Nori, the seaweed usually found in avocado rolls, tastes briny. On the other hand, Dulse, which can be found in dried or powdered forms, has a smoky flavor.
What Does Seaweed Smell Like?
Now that we know what seaweed tastes like let’s shift to another sense – smell. The smell of food is very important. If something smells bad, you’ll probably refuse to eat it, and if something smells good, you probably can’t stop eating it. So, will the smell make you run away or bring you closer to seaweed?
Seaweed is famous for its horrifying rotten egg smell when it has washed up onshore and left to rot. This offensive smell is due to the gasses that it releases. On the other hand, fresh seaweed has a more pleasant ocean breeze aroma.
Edible seaweed has a fishy or ocean-like smell. For example, Nori smells like the ocean, roasted nuts, and iodine. While some people classify seaweed as “stinky,” others don’t seem to mind it.
What’s the Texture of Seaweed Like?
The fishy taste isn’t the only thing people worry about when they are about to take their first bite of seaweed. Often, people worry that the texture of seaweed might be as slimy as when it is in the ocean.
Good news! Seaweed’s texture is not always slimy. In fact, its texture can range from rubbery to crunchy and crispy. If it were slimy, I’d also avoid eating it.
The texture of your seaweed depends on the type of seaweed you’re eating. For example, Dulse seaweed has a soft, leathery texture, while thin, dry Nori sheets are more crackly, sharp, and a bit chewy. When you moisten them, they become even chewier and silkier.
The dried seaweed sheets you buy are often too dense and hard to consume. That is why they should be soaked in hot, sterile water for 30 minutes or more. The texture will then become similar to that of Nori.
What Tastes Similar to Seaweed?
The best way to describe seaweed’s flavor is by identifying something similar to it. Luckily, there is one delicious food item that is comparable.
Drum roll, please. It’s bacon! Many people compare the taste of some seaweed to the taste of bacon. The smoked version of seaweed often has more of a bacon-y taste. However, there is one particular type that tastes like bacon: Dulse.
When Dulse is cooked, it tastes like bacon. It isn’t a replica of bacon’s taste, but it is similar. Dulse has prominent salt and savory flavor. It looks like red-leaf lettuce which, in my opinion, looks like bacon. It has a bit of chewiness and crunch.
How to Serve Seaweed
Has all this talk about seaweed got your cravings rolling in? If that’s the case, this is how you can serve and enjoy seaweed.
Most of us are familiar with seaweed cuddling rice to make sushi. Seaweed is used to make many kinds of sushi. You can create your own vegan California rolls with crisp tofu using a sushi mat. You will need nori sheets, sushi rice, avocados, and sesame seeds.
Is Seaweed Good for You?
They usually say things that taste good are bad for you, but not in the case of seaweed! Nutritionally speaking, seaweed can be very healthy.
Seaweed has the power of absorbing concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean. This is important nutritionally because the human body can’t produce it, but it is needed for healthy thyroid functions.
Seaweed is also a great source of other micronutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and folate. It also contains many antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) and protective pigments.
Seaweed is also high in protein and fiber. Its great nutrition profile can be beneficial for overall health, especially certain illnesses. For example, the high fiber content could improve gut health.
Though it is healthy, you should not overdo it with the seaweed. Watch out for the high iodine content or any seaweed variations that might have high levels of heavy metals.
How to Tell if Seaweed Has Gone Bad
Let’s say you found some old seaweed in your kitchen from that one time you tried making sushi at home. Can you still eat it now, or has it gone bad?
To know if your seaweed has gone bad or not, you’re going to want to take a good look at it. If you find mold, you should definitely toss it out. It gets moldy within a few days if moisture gets to the dried seaweed.
Next, you’re going to observe the color. Has it changed? If yes, and it is now a yellow-ish or brown-ish color, it has gone bad. Finally, if the sheet starts to break into loose bits, it’s time to throw it out. Your sushi seaweed is safe to eat if all else is good.
If all seems promising, it is best to give the seaweed that has been around for quite some time a little taste before adding it to the meal. A flavorless or stale taste means that the seaweed is past its prime, and you can discard it for quality purposes.