Health professionals hail seaweed for its nutrient-rich, high-fiber properties. Environmentalists commend its ability to absorb carbon underwater and grow rapidly without feed. This is all true for this small yet mighty plant. My first bite of seaweed, however, came not from one advertising its health or climate benefits but atop a comforting bowl of rice.
As a kid, I welcomed any occasion to munch on this salty snack. Take school lunch, the bane of my mother’s week. She often worked over 50 hours, so when she was feeling especially overwhelmed, she’d send me off with a thermos of rice sprinkled with furikake seasoning and a packet of crispy seaweed. And guess what? I was totally content, if not overjoyed, to find this combination in my lunch box. Quickly, I became the envy of my class’s lunches, and others began bringing their own seaweed and rice combinations to school.
Back then, my mom could only find seaweed at our local Korean and Chinese grocery stores. But now seaweed in many of its forms — nori, gim, furikake and more — can be found in supermarket aisles. Chefs from all corners of the globe use it for an umami kick. And you, too, can throw together a pleasantly crunchy meal with seaweed. Check out our Recipe Finder for more seaweed recipes or dishes that deserve a dash of flavor.
Steak and Asparagus Donburi, above. After an intense day, nothing hits the spot like a comforting spoon of yakiniku donburi, or a rice bowl topped with grilled meat and vegetables. In this dish, crushed nori shines as a flaky condiment and a savory nori butter coating the seared meat.
Chirashi Sushi. Chirashi is a choose-your-own-adventure type of meal. The best chirashi relies on the freshest, most colorful ingredients. Soak your rice overnight for the fluffiest bed. Ask for sashimi-grade salmon or the freshest catch available from your fish counter. Pick up seasonal vegetables and form colorful patterns atop your rice.
Creamy Bucatini With Roasted Seaweed. Gim, the nuttier and saltier Korean version of Japanese nori, takes the front seat in this easy pasta recipe. Creamy pasta isn’t the only dish just waiting for a dash of gim. Porridge, rice dishes and oatmeal are other canvases for this umami condiment.
Okonomiyaki With Smoked Tofu. For a vegetarian spin on this savory pancake from southern Japan, use smoked tofu instead of bacon. A squirt of Kewpie mayo and okonomiyaki sauce (A1 works as a substitute) and a sprinkle of furikake or katsuobushi, also known as dried and smoked skipjack tuna, round out the dish.
Musubi. We add spam to everything these days — fried rice, scrambled eggs or even a classic breakfast sandwich — but it’s at its best in a teriyaki-glazed musubi wrapped in nori. This handheld snack makes the ultimate to-go lunch, picnic snack, beach treat or appetizer for any dinner.
Wasabi Avocado and Crab on Crispy Rice Cakes. Crab and avocado come together for a crispy bite inspired by flavors in California rolls. Pair these cakes with miso soup or chilled vegetable salad for a refreshing summer meal.