Edible seaweed is a vegetable that grows in our oceans. It is a food source for both ocean life and human beings who eat it in many forms.
Seaweed is a product that absorbs iodine from the sea - a substance that our human bodies cannot produce but that we require nonetheless for healthy thyroid function.
It is rich in nutrients including calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
As well as being nutrient-rich, seaweed is low in calories and has been harvested for centuries by Asian cultures, including the Koreans and Japanese.
It is an essential ingredient in lots of Japanese dishes like miso soup and sushi rolls.
What is seaweed salad?
Seaweed salad is a dish served in many sushi restaurants here in the US.
It is made with various colorful seaweeds and dressed with a sweet, savory dressing enriched with toasted sesame oil. You can make it at home with ease.
The Japanese for “Seaweed Salad” is Goma Wakame. It is a delicious and refreshing low-calorie combination of seaweed plus certain Asian ingredients.
These include sesame, wood ear mushrooms known as Kikurage, and sweet bell peppers.
The addition of agar-agar is the final ingredient that holds the seaweed salad together and gives it its smooth glossy appearance.
The seaweed salad described above is the conception of Azuma Foods.
This company specializes in creating new food culture by mixing traditional Japanese cuisine with other traditional foods worldwide.
You can eat Goma Wakame with chopsticks or a fork; it is often used as a side dish or a topping for sushi.
It is also used with stuffed tomatoes to bring unique color and flavor to the party.
Where does seaweed salad come from?
If you ever go to Japan, visit a restaurant, and asked the waiter for a seaweed salad, you’re likely to get a strange look, and they will probably serve you with something that is not what you expected.
The literal translation of seaweed salad in Japanese is Kaisou Sarada (海藻サラダ).
The problem is that this relates to any salad sprinkled with seaweed and not the bright green concoction seasoned with sesame oil that you would normally be served with here in the US.
A “normal” seaweed salad in Japan consists of a mixture of seaweeds served on a bed of lettuce with sweet corn, cucumbers, and tomato, finished off with some dressing that varies from house to house.
It’s not the sort of thing that you would get in an authentic sushi restaurant in Japan.
Where to buy seaweed
The best place to buy edible seaweed is from a Japanese grocery store if you happen to have one in your town.
If you do, you’ll find they carry a wide assortment of various seaweeds, especially for making the salad.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a local Japanese grocery store, you can always revert to the Internet.
Origins of Japanese seaweed salad served in the USA
Well, it certainly didn’t come from Japan. I have an idea that it is related to Chinese jellyfish salad (涼拌海蜇), which has a similar marinade and consistency.
How it actually arrived here in the United States is anybody’s guess.
Why it looks green?
A lot of people here in the US eat seaweed salad because they believe it to be healthy. I am sorry to have to be a party pooper, but that isn’t the case.
That beautiful green color that typical Japanese seaweed salads have served in US Japanese restaurants is not natural at all; it’s a food coloring agent.
The restaurants that serve Japanese seaweed salad buy it in tubs already mixed and dressed, which probably means that it’s loaded with corn syrup and monosodium glutamate.
But, if we can put that to one side for a moment, seaweed is rich in minerals and vitamins, which explains why I wanted to share with you how to make it at home.
Of course, without that bright green coloring, it won’t look quite the same but believe me, it’s delicious.
How long does seaweed salad last?
Seaweed on its own has a good shelf life. However, when you combine it with other ingredients, seaweed salad’s shelf life increases considerably.
A batch of seaweed salad you just made will keep for up to 3 to 4 days in your fridge, and if dried and packaged, it can last for years and will still be good.
Although dried seaweed will not rot or go off, its flavor and nutrient value impairs if it isn’t stored correctly.
Seasoned seaweed won’t last for more than about a year beyond its expiration date.
- You can leave seaweed salad out at room temperature for around four hours. If you’re not going to eat it within that time, I suggest you store it in the fridge.
- Once refrigerated, it should last for up to 4 days before it starts to turn. That’s providing the fridge door isn’t opened and closed too often. If it is, it’s likely to begin turning bad a little sooner.
- If you store seaweed salad in a container and you keep on accessing it to serve a small portion, providing you reseal it, it will last for three or four days.
- If you want to store it for an extended time, then the freezer is your best bet. Once frozen, seaweed salad will remain fresh for up to 12 months.
- Once thawed, Japanese seaweed salad will begin to deteriorate.
Please note that you should not refreeze previously frozen seaweed salad.
How to store seaweed salad
Because of the ingredients used to make seaweed salad, it should always be kept cool in a fridge.
I advise you not to store it out at room temperature unless you plan to consume it within an hour.
An alternative way of keeping seafood salad nice and cool on the table is to put it on top of some ice.
- Transfer the Goma Wakame onto a plate. Position the plate on top of an ice bath in a container or bowl.
This is an excellent way of keeping seaweed salad nice and cold and crunchy on the dinner table while people help themselves.
- If refrigerating your salad, it’s best to put it into an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Either will keep it nice and fresh for a day or two.
- If storing it in a bowl, don’t forget to cover it tightly with cling film.
- If using a plastic bag, don’t overfill it. Leave plenty of room so you can zip up the bag easily.
Can you freeze seaweed salad?
As mentioned above, you can freeze seaweed salad. It freezes well thanks to its high water content.
It’s the best way of storing it if you want to make a large batch and just access what you need as and when.
You’ll be pleased to know that freezing seaweed salad preserves its freshness. The sooner you consume it, the better its quality will be.
If you constantly thaw and refreeze wakame, its quality will quickly deteriorate.
So it is recommended to only thawing it and consuming it once, unless, of course, you store it in small portion sizes, in which case you can take as much as you need when you need it.
Steps to take when freezing seaweed salad
Freezing seaweed salad is pretty straightforward and not at all time-consuming. How often you eat this type of salad will dictate how you should freeze it.
Whether you freeze it in one entire batch or split the batch into smaller portions is your choice.
If you bought the salad from the store, you most likely bought it frozen, in which case all you need to do when you get home is to pop it into the freezer straight away.
If you prefer to portion it and freeze smaller portions, follow the steps:
Leave the pack of frozen seaweed in your refrigerator overnight to allow it to thaw. The minimum time it should be left to defrost is eight hours.
Once it has defrosted, open the pack and transfer small portions into small Ziploc freezer bags.
Before sealing, squeeze each bag to evacuate as much air as possible.
Label and date.
If you’re going to stack the bags on top of each other to save space in your freezer, make sure they are frozen before you stacking.
As mentioned above, the best way of defrosting seaweed salad is to do so overnight in your fridge.
The variety of edible seaweeds
The types of seaweed found in our oceans are almost too numerous to count.
Not all of them are edible. However, many are, and each has its own unique color and consistency.
It’s the reason I usually refer to this type of product as sea vegetables rather than seaweed.
The best seaweed salads are made from a combination of various types.
Below is the list of the ingredients my family and I prefer. The more varieties you use, the better the color and texture of your salad, so experiment to your heart’s content.
- Green Mafunori
- Green Tosaka
- Red Funoair
- Red Tosaka
- Red Tsunomata
- Thread Agar
- Wakeme Stem
- White Tosaka
You don’t need to use all of these in one sitting, but I have sampled the majority at one time or another.
How to rehydrate seaweed
It only takes about six or seven minutes to rehydrate most seaweeds.
It’s important not to soak the seaweed for too long because if you do, it will become too soggy, and the salad will not be very palatable.
6 to 7 minutes, I have found, works best. By adding some dressing and getting around to eating it, it will have fully rehydrated.
After tossing the salad with its dressing, I suggest you let it sit for no more than an hour before consuming.
For maximum flavor, I recommend storing it overnight in your fridge.
The dressing for seaweed salad
American-style Japanese seaweed salad gets its traditional dressing flavor from the addition of toasted sesame plus salt, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar.
This combination of ingredients produces a delicious sauce that is sweet and savory, with a hint of toasted sesame.
I adore the taste of ginger, so I usually add a little ginger juice to the dressing.
Adding ginger itself would make the salad a little fibrous, so adding the juice rather than the flesh gives me the ginger hit I’m looking for without detracting from the texture.
Extracting ginger juice
Extracting the juice from ginger couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is pass it through a strainer, and it’s job done. A handheld garlic press is ideal.
I’m not particularly eager to overpower the delicate flavor of the seaweed, so I tend not to use too much salt or sugar when making the dressing.
If you prefer the flavor of the store-bought seaweed salad, you may need to add a little more salt and sugar than I do.
Seaweed salad Variety
Some seaweed salads are spicier than others. If you find you like a little more heat, you can always add a few chili flakes, a little chili paste, or a spoonful of sambal oelek.
The Japanese often use Ponzu in the dressing. It is a citrus-type source made with a combination of soy, sugar, and yuzu juice.
If you’ve never tried it before, I recommend you do. It’s become my favorite dressing for this type of salad. You can check some of my favorites salads here like the green papaya salad, cucumber salad, and Thai beef salad.
How to lengthen seaweed’s shelf life
Different seaweeds have different shelf lives and respond to shelf life extension in various ways.
Let’s take a look at some of the variations.
1 Fresh Seaweed
Depending on where you live, you can buy fresh seaweed in your local fish market if you have one.
The maximum shelf life is between three and four days if you pop it into your refrigerator. Any longer and it will become soft and mushy and won’t be fit to consume.
2 Seaweed - ordinary dried
Types of this kind of seaweed include dulce, kombu, nori, and wakame. They are available in sealed plastic packages.
Shelf life is typically between two and three years.
You can safely keep this type of seaweed for as long as two or three years beyond the expiry date. They would last longer as long as the packaging remains unopened and is stored in a cool, dry place away from any sunlight.
When it does finally deteriorate, it’s likely to go stale rather than turn bad.
3 Seaweed - dried and seasoned.
This type of dried seaweed is called nori. It is seasoned and available in sheet form or shredded. It is used in Korean cuisine as well as being famous as a sushi ingredient.
The typical shelf life is approximately one year.
Nori seaweed is seasoned with salt and sesame oil. The shredded variant, as well as being seasoned, is also available with various flavored toppings.
A bottle of sesame oil will typically last one year past its expiry date, which means it also reduces nori’s shelf life.
How to extend the shelf life of seaweed
You can extend the shelf life of seaweed in several ways.
1 By freezing
As with most foods, freezing is a very effective way of prolonging the shelf life of seaweed. It slows down the biochemical processes that drive the degradation of food.
It is also instrumental in halting the proliferation of microorganisms responsible for the spoilage of food products.
When fresh, you can freeze seaweed for between 6 and 12 months. Before freezing, it is important to wash and dry it thoroughly.
Ideally, it should then be vacuum-sealed in moisture-resistant freezer bags or airtight containers.
All varieties of dried seaweed are freezable and will keep for over three years before turning stale.
When freezing an unopened packet of dried seaweed, the entire package should be packed into an airtight container or moisture-resistant freezer bag.
The original packaging is sold in may be susceptible to moisture and may not be freezer proof.
How about the opened packets?
When seaweed packets have been opened and leftovers you wish to freeze, you should transfer the seaweed into airtight containers or freezer-safe bags before freezing.
Because sheets of nori can be somewhat brittle, vacuum packing can result in the seaweed rippling or breaking.
To prevent this, I recommend storing in airtight freezer bags or containers.
2 Storing seaweed in your fridge
Fresh seaweed does not last long, even if you keep it in your fridge.
Dried seaweed, however, both seasoned and unseasoned varieties last much longer - anywhere up to one year after their expiry date providing they are is stored in airtight containers.
Some types of dried seaweed, like kombu, can tolerate a little moisture, unlike nori, which needs to be stored in an environment with as little moisture as possible; otherwise, it will absorb water from the air around it.
When left in a humid environment, seaweed will soften, and the individual sheets will stick together, making it nigh on impossible to separate them.
How to dry fresh seaweed
Recently harvested seaweed can be sun-dried or try using a dehydrator. The drying process significantly lengthens seaweed’s shelf life from a few days only to several years.
Buying store-bought fresh seaweed and drying it is not recommended. It’s far better to dry fresh seaweed the same day that it was harvested.
The steps for drying seaweed under the sun are as follows:
First, you need to rinse the seaweed thoroughly to remove any grains of sand or little snails and crabs, etc.
After rinsing, you should hang the wet seaweed on a clothesline or similar where it is exposed to the sun. It is possible to dry seaweed on a spread-out plot or baking tray, but the seaweed needs to be partially dry if using this method.
In the evening, you should cover the seaweed with some waterproof sheet or cloth just in case it rains. Alternatively, it can be moved undercover.
Leave for 3 to 5 days until the seaweed has dried thoroughly.
3 Pantry storage
Alternatively, if refrigeration or freezing is not possible, an unopened packet of dried seaweed can be kept in a cool, dark, dry pantry.
Don’t forget you can store that opened packs of seaweed in your fridge as long as you place it into an airtight and moisture-resistant container.
4 Vacuum sealed seaweed
One of the best ways to prolong the shelf life of leftover seaweed after the pack has been open is to vacuum-seal it.
Vacuum sealing removes virtually all of the air and moisture that might otherwise cause the seaweed to deteriorate.
Vacuum packs are also moisture and water-resistant and are an excellent way for extending the life of many foodstuffs, including, of course, seaweed. Make sure the bags you use are freezer-safe.
5 Storing seaweed in airtight containers
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer at home, the alternative for storing opened seaweed packs is to transfer the contents into an airtight container.
Many store-bought packs of dried seaweed products (especially sheets of seasoned nori) contain small packets of silica gel.
Silica gel is a non-toxic product that absorbs moisture. If you are going to store leftovers of nori seaweed, it’s always a good idea to remove the silica gel pack and replace it with a new one.
You can buy small packs of desiccant “silica gel” online from Amazon.
Salvaging sheets of nori that had become moist
Nori is notorious for sucking up moisture from its environment. If your nori sheets have become moist, you can dry them by exposing them briefly to a burner flame until they crisp up again.
They can then get transferred into an airtight container and stored unless, of course, you’re going to use them immediately.
How can you tell if seaweed salad is bad?
Here are the signs to look out for that indicate your seaweed salad has turned:
The texture of seaweed that has turned becomes gooey and slimy. Typically this happens when it’s exposed to warm temperatures for long periods.
The smell is almost non-existent when seaweed salad is fresh. When it turns, however, it develops a recognizable aroma.
When it’s nice and fresh, a seaweed salad is crunchy and has a lovely light taste. As it turns, it will become limp and will develop a vinegary taste, at which stage it should be discarded.
How to extend the shelflife of seaweed salad
The best way to extend the shelf life of seafood salad is to keep them cool, such as in a fridge or freezer.
Store-bought seaweed salad is usually sold frozen. It would be best if you got it home as quickly as possible to ensure it doesn’t defrost, and when you arrive back home, pop it straight into the freezer.
If you go to a sushi bar or any other outlet that serves seaweed salad and you have leftovers, why not ask for a doggy bag?
When you get home, provided it wasn’t exposed to high temperature on your journey, you can store it in your fridge or freezer, or of course, eat it straight away.