Wakame is a delicate, mild tasting, low calorie sea vegetable with a succulent texture. A favorite food in Japanese and Korean cuisine, it is traditionally cooked in miso soup, served on its own as a cold side dish (sunomono), or cooked with foods like kabocha squash.
It can be adapted into American cooking in salads, soups, stews, as a side dish, and even added into raw sauerkraut. It compliments grains from barley and quinoa to rice and millet.
Wakame looks black in the package, but turns a delicate green color when cooked, brighter if blanched briefly in boiling water.
Heavy Metal Contamination Issues
The two brands I trust to test for heavy metal contamination are Eden brand and Maine Coast sea veggie. Right now I probably would buy Alaria from Maine Coast; its Atlantic ocean wakame, which obviates the need for concern about radioactive contamination. What I will not buy are sea vegetables farmed or harvested in China, due to the widespread problem with quality control standards.
Wakame is a very low calorie super food. It high in beta-carotene, and adds amazing mineral content to your meals. Its a great source of iron for vegetarians: 1/3 cup supplies a whopping DV
20% of vita A, 11% iron, 14% riboflavin, 29% B6, 18%B12, 21% magnesium, 12% fouride and chromium, 15% potassium, and 775% iodine.
Caution: people with Thyroid issues: check to see if you are allowed high doses of iodine. Sea vegetables are excellent for borderline hypothyroid people who are not on supplementation. Milk and meat products as well as iodized salt also provide iodine supplementation.
People on low sodium diets: 1/3 cup gives 12% of your sodium DV. Reduce the sodium by rinsing first or discarding the soak water.
Warning for Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease
While iodine is necessary for normal thyroid health, and a recent study showed a significant increase in iodine deficiency in United States citizens over the past 20 years, people with both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease usually need to avoid iodine or iodine-containing products, which make worsen autoimmune thyroid problems, and cause enlargement of the thyroid (goiter). If you have either of those diseases, please check with your doctor before eating foods that are high in iodine, such as Arame.
Medicinal Use: Chinese Medicine
Sea veggies have an overall cleansing, detoxifying effect, and are used medicinally in Chinese medicine to de-congest phlegm and soften lumps and nodules. They have an airy, light quality, so provide balance to heavier more oily foods, and are excellent for people prone to allergies, colds, acne, red oily skin, and obesity.
Sea vegetables are cooling, so need to be combined with other warming foods, or prepared with ginger and other flavors (sour, pungent) that protect the digestive fire.
But since they are cooling, they are excellent for the heat that develops in the lungs from acute allergies and in the wake of bronchitis, colds, flus and other febrile illnesses. Great for chronic fatigue and environmental illness.
People with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease can benefit from this food, as sea veggies clear toxic heat out of the intestines without damaging its healthy yang transformative fire; it also promote healing of ulcerous lesions.
Wakame and other sea veggies are superb for intestinal problems involving constipation, as it has a slippery lubricating, downward moving effect on the colon. Indeed, wakame has 45% more dietary fiber and 16% more soluble fiber than Oat bran!
Here is a seasonal recipe that combines the spicy warm grounding energy of turnip, with the cool yin engendering, moistening quality of pear, and the detoxifying qualities of wakame sea vegetable. This is an ideal dish for helping the body adapt to the cold dry weather of late autumn/early winter.
American ginseng is optional, but further protects the Lungs and helps our bodies with the transition into shorter days/colder weather. If you don’t have whole root, you can use powder from a couple of capsules. Chinese White ginseng may also be used.
1 cup Wakame Sea Vegetable
5 slices fresh ginger root, or ½ tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp sliced American or Chinese White Ginseng
6 golden raisins
1 dash white pepper
Water, enough to cover, about 2 cups
*1 tsp Vinegar, Ume Plum or Apple Cider
*1 tsp Mirin, Japanese sweet cooking wine
1 dash toasted sesame oil.
***Ume plum vinegar, which gives a lovely pink color and special flavor, is at Whole Foods, as is Mirin, an aromatic sweet cooking wine. These are optional, but make it even more delightful.
–Using a kitchen shears, cut the wakame into 1” chunks. Place in bowl, cover with water, soak for at least 1 hour, strain, save soak water for some miso or other soup.
— Halve the turnip and cut in half moon slices
–When I use Bosc pear, I quarter it and core. For Yellow variety pears, I like to halve, core, and slice into kind of half moon slices
–Combine everything except the mirin and toasted sesame oil in a small pot. Add enough water so it is about an 1 and ½ inches above the solids. Bring to the boil, and lower to simmer. Cover with a heavy lid and cook till done, about 15 minutes. Add more water if needed. When the Wakame is done it will be tender and translucent. The turnips and pear will be soft.
–Add the mirin and a dash of toasted sesame oil and mix gently. Simmer another minute.
Top with roasted ground sesame seed (gomasio) or just roasted sesame seed (place sesame seeds in hot pan on low flame, stir until they begin to pop. Allow to pop for a minute.)
This is an excellent side dish with heavier food like beans and rice, or meat. I prefer balancing heavy high protein foods with something light like this rather than further heavy foods like stuffing and gravy. Goes great with turkey and cranberry sauce!
Copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. December 2012 All rights reserved, use with permission