Rey, the main character, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens trades metal pieces for a ration of freeze-dried food. As she mixes the food in water, the particles gel together to form a grey bread-like unappetizing mass. Similarly, strands of dried red seaweed, dulse (rhymes with pulse), look bland when first peeled from the packet. However, the taste is surprisingly delicious.
I was inspired to try dulse when I saw a Whole Foods advertisement for the centuries-old flavors of dulse alongside other superfoods. Found commonly on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, interest in dulse has been renewed for the food’s umami flavor and its antioxidant properties. Dulse, which belongs in the same family as seaweed and kelp, is also rich in minerals such as iodine and proteins. When fried in a little oil, dulse swaps some of its oceanic flavors for a chewy, meaty taste – more specifically, a taste that strongly reminds me of bacon.
Fresh dulse, whether from wild or farmed sources, is air-dried to preserve its nutritional properties. The dried edible seaweed keeps for a long time. Enjoy this superfood.
How To Use Dulse:
- The simplest way is eat as a snack straight from the packet, but I’ve listed some alternatives below:
- Sauté until crispy in a little vegetable oil, and serve as a side to fried or poached eggs.
- Crush the dried leaves and sprinkle on a salad for an added umami flavor.
- Mix into vegetable and fruit smoothies for additional mineral and vitamins.
- Add to soups as a garnish.
I seemed to have lucked out with friends who entertain at home, as I am able to enjoy a cultural and dining experience right in their kitchens! In my last blog, I recalled my Swiss friend’s cheese fondue. This week, I thought about my Japanese friend’s tabletop communal meal, Shabu shabu. Several years later as I replicate the dish, I replaced some of the red meat with more vegetable options that is just as delicious. Similar in style to cheese fondue meal, Shabu shabu has a central pot that uses hot broth instead of cheese. Shabu shabu is also surrounded by a variety of side dishes.
Shabu shabu broth is made easily with water that is flavored with dried seaweed (kombu) and fish (bonito) flakes or powder. I shopped at my local Japanese market for the more traditional accompaniments such as chrysanthemum leaves, nori and kombu seaweed, but most large supermarkets carry dried seaweed, tofu, and enoki and shiitake mushrooms. Instead of investing in a bottled version of the dipping sauce, ponzu, I made my own version with soy sauce, mirin, orange juice, lemon and chili flakes – ingredients that I had at home.
Communal meals can be cobbled together quickly and stretched if more people are going to share the meal. Shopping and preparation can be done ahead of time. There are no measurements involved, and the meal can be an impromptu dinner if you have some of basic ingredients such as cabbage, mushrooms, and carrots in the refrigerator.
For the Broth:
- Bring 3 cups of water to boil, lower the heat and add ½ sheet of kombu
- Let the water simmer and then add 1 ½ tsp the bonito powder. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Strain the broth and discard the seaweed.
- Keep the broth on slow simmer.
- Add the vegetable such as carrots that take the longest to cook into the broth.
- Bring the broth to the table and each person dips the meat into the broth.
- Once the vegetables and meat are cooked to your desired level of crispness, remove them.
- Serve with the dipping sauce and bowls of cooked rice.
- Sirloin beef, sliced thinly and flattened further (press the sides of the knife on the thin slice of meat)
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Enoki mushrooms
- Napa cabbage leaves
- Cubed tofu
- Strips of carrots
- Chrysanthemum leaves
- Cooked sticky rice