Kelp and Enoki Soy Salad – CYOB

Earthy enoki mushrooms are a perfect balance to the naturally briny seaweed and crisp cabbage. Authentic Asian flavors - soy, ginger, garlic, sesame - take this warm salad to restaurant level.

Earthy enoki mushrooms are a perfect balance to the naturally briny seaweed and crisp cabbage. Authentic Asian flavors – soy, ginger, garlic, sesame – take this warm salad to restaurant level.

Create Your Own Bite #21

1 Cup Dried Kombu Kelp or Seaweed, Rehydrated

1 Cup Napa Cabbage, Chopped

1 Ounce Enoki Mushrooms, Cleaned

1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

1/4 Teaspoon Sesame Oil

1/8 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 Clove Garlic, Minced

1 Sheet Roasted Seaweed, Chopped (Optional)

Makes one serving. Estimated Calories: 90

After going to Emerson College for four years, I’m sorry to say I only ventured into a Chinatown supermarket once before today. Even though the campus is conveniently located at the edge of Boston’s Chinatown, I remembered being overwhelmed by the foreign products, none of which were labeled with English explanations.

But I’ve been on a Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack kick, and was inspired to pick some up fresh seaweed at the grocery store – which required a little field trip to Chinatown.

I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for; but I did happen upon an isle full of traditional dried Chinese products. Whole shelves of dried mushrooms, seaweed, kelp, moss, pork, shrimp – you name it. There was also a wide variety of unique and unfamiliar vegetables and greens. I left with a tiny haul – dried kombu seaweed and enoki mushrooms, because the C Mart Supermarket on Washington St., has a $5 card minimum. And I was regretfully unprepared.

One of my favorite things to order at a Japanese restaurant is seaweed salad. But it’s always drenched in sesame oil.  My vision for tonight’s seaweed-based dinner was to lighten the dish, and incorporate some additional layers of texture and flavor.

Seaweed (and kelp), of course, is the star of tonight’s dinner. Like kale or spinach, sea vegetables can be equated to the iron-rich, nutrient-packed dark leafy greens you may be more familiar with. Yet they also have more unique properties that can not go unmentioned. Seaweed contains significant levels of iodine, which is rarely found in food, more calcium than broccoli, and vitamins B-12 and A.  But best of all, these underwater greens contain all essential amino acids, making them an adequate source of protein, and they’re extremely high in soluble fiber, the kind that slows down your body’s carbohydrate and sugar absorption.

Don't be intimidated by the unattractive exterior. Once rehydrated, seaweed is as easy to work with as any of our more traditional leafy greens.

Don’t be intimidated by the unattractive exterior. Once rehydrated, seaweed is as easy to work with as any of our more traditional leafy greens.

To prepare this dish, start by pulling loose one sheet of kombu, and rehydrating it in a bowl of cold water.  I left mine for about thirty minutes – the briny sediment will come free and the seaweed will rehydrate. I wiped the sheet clean, and then cut it into long, thin, linguine-like strips.

Voila! This thick, hearty seaweed makes for a more filling, entree salad.

Voila! Kelp is thicker and heartier than most varieties of seaweed, making it the perfect base for a more filling entree salad.

I wanted to enjoy my salad warm, so I put the kelp in a pan on low heat while I prepared the rest of the ingredients. I thinly sliced cabbage into long strips, and then cleaned the enoki mushrooms. Also known as straw mushrooms, this mild, delicate variety should be kept away from the heat until the last second.

Finding fresh enoki mushrooms was a real treat - typically, this variety is stuffed into a jar and left on a shelf in the "ethnic food isle" of a supermarket.

Finding fresh enoki mushrooms was a real treat – typically, this variety is stuffed into a jar and left on a shelf in the “foreign food isle” of a supermarket.

Toss your cabbage and minced garlic in with the seaweed, and then begin combining the rest of the ingredients for the salad’s dressing. Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil, and add this into the pan at the same time as the enoki mushrooms. Mix together, and turn off the heat. The mushrooms shouldn’t be in the hot pan for more than a few minutes. If your sauce needs a little something sweet to balance the briny kelp, add a quarter teaspoon of honey or another sweetener. Or, take this dish in the opposite direction with a sprinkle of red chili flakes.

I topped my salad with some chopped roasted seaweed snack, for a little extra nuttiness. Sesame seeds or pickled ginger would also be a fantastic garnish.

Experimenting with new ingredients is always a challenge. But today’s dinner was a nutritious, rewarding experience. Best of all, I discovered a new corner of Boston with a whole plethora of products to try and a whole culinary tradition to learn.

Until next time,

Melanie

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