(若布, Undaria pinnatifida
) is a type of
used in Japanese
and Korean food
primarily in salads and soups. While technically a brown algae
wakame looks like a vibrant, spinach-y dark green thin flat sheet.
The canonical bowl of miso soup
a few tiny cubes of tofu
and a slice or two of wakame on the
bottom; the canonical bowl of clear soup
has the same ingredients
without the miso. Wakame is high in vitamins and minerals
), has virtually no calories and
virtually no taste.
Wakame is commonly available in two forms: heavily salted
nama wakame (lit. raw wakame) and dried hoshi wakame.
(Unsalted, "really" fresh
wakame is a delicacy usually only available in the spring in Japan.)
Nama wakame must be washed several times to get rid of the salt;
dried wakame should be soaked in tepid water for about 20 minutes to
rehydrate it. Any ribs and tough stems should be removed at this
point. When used in soups, wakame should only be simmered
for a minute or so, or it will lose most of its nutrients and
degenerate into a slimy mess.
Wakame has a close cousin called alaria (Alaria esculenta),
found in the Atlantic Sea. Alaria and wakame can be used more or
less interchangably, although alaria requires a longer cooking time. Also note that wakame should not be confused with kelp (Jp. kombu), which looks similar
when dried but tastes, acts and is used completely differently.
A tip from sneff: take a look under jellyfish for an unusual recipe featuring wakame.