Salt-preserved wakame salad 塩蔵わかめの酢の物

japanese cake

Wakame わ かめ is one type of edible seaweed commonly used in Japanese cooking especially in soup or salad (sunomono 酢の物). Wakame can be bought fresh or “nama” 生 (available only seasonally in Japan–not here in the U.S.). Other preparations are salt preserved or “enzou” 塩蔵, and dried or “kansou” 乾燥. Except for fresh wakame, all others are first briefly boiled (which turns the natural brown color of wakame to the green we are familiar with), then, either salt-preserved or dried. The dried variety is most commonly available here in the U.S. and its shelf-life is very long. It is also very convenient (just put it in a soup or hydrate before use) but it lacks flavor and texture. Since it is next to impossible to get fresh wakame, the next best thing is to salt-preserved wakame especially if you are a wakame connoisseur.

I found a package of salt preserved wakame in a near-by Japanese grocery store. I included this picture to show you that this salt-preserved wakame came from “Sanriku” 三陸, the area devastated in the earthquakes and tsunami on March 11, 2011. (Although the Japanese writing on the package said “raw wakame” 生わかめ, this is salt-preserved not “raw”.) When you take out one strand of wakame, it looks like the one on the left of the image below.

To use this type of wakame is rather easy and it re-hydrates faster than the dried kind. I just washed it in cold running water to remove the salt and then soaked it in water for a few minutes. It re-hydrated and went back to its natural size and consistency as seen on the right of the image below. It was boiled before being salt preserved. As a result, the hydrated wakame has a nice green color. Since it is not pre-cut, I had to cut it into  appropriate size pieces after squeezing out the excess water.

I just made my ususal sunomono with salt-preserved wakame, cucumber and diced (or concasse of) tomato. For dressing, you could use bottled sushi vinegar,  “sanbai-zu” 三杯酢 (you mix rice vinegar 3 tbs, soy suace 1 tsp, salt 1/3 tsp, and sugar 1/2 tbs), or Ponzu shouyu ポン酢醤油 (from the bottle). You could also make sumiso 酢みそ dressing if you like. I used sanbai-zu. Sometimes, I also add a small amount of good olive oil or sesame oil to make it interesting. Since I had a small piece of tarako omelet left over, I also added the slices.

Is salt preserved wakame better than dried? For sunomono, I think it is. For soup, the difference is less noticeable. The salt preserved wakame should last a few weeks in the refrigerator after opening the package and if you freeze it, should last at least 5-6 months. The dried wakame may last a few years. You have to try it to determine if getting salt-preserved wakame is worth it for you.

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