Seaweed salad, or wakame salad, became a huge favorite of mine while we were living in Hawaii back in 2012. I would always get a side of it when we'd go to the little poke shop by the beach. I loved the crunchy nature of it, and the sweet and slightly sour taste. I also thought it was super healthy.
I never thought to look into the ingredients in it, and just figured it must be fine since it was green and was made with seaweed. It wasn't until I tried making it myself a few years ago that I started doing some research.
First off – I had no idea most of the standard seaweed salads sold at sushi restaurants and poke places had green food dye in them. Now that I think about it – that neon green color does seem pretty unnatural, but I just chalked it up to nature being awesome.
Secondly – I didn't realize just how much sugar was in it! I guess that's why I loved it so much. Unfortunately most commercial brands use white sugar, or even corn syrup.
Finally – most have soy sauce in them which typically contains wheat unless it's gluten-free Tamari.
3 strikes, and it's out. Very sadly out.
I've been making poke at home for years but have just forgone my beloved salad because I couldn't find it commercially available with healthy ingredients. Actually – fun story – the poke recipe that is in my first cookbook Against all Grain was written and photographed while we were living in Hawaii! about 1/4 of that book was developed in our little apartment kitchen there and shot on a balcony overlooking the ocean. Such fond memories!
I've been working on a new poke bowl recipe for you guys, and just had to have a seaweed salad to go with it, so I played around with a few different types of seaweed and dressings and found one that I loved. After trying a few different types of seaweed, including wake and red dulse, I found this instant seaweed salad mix that I really love. It has a mix of a few different types and it stays really crunchy and chewy. I got it on Amazon but I've seen it at my Whole Foods and other health stores in the area.
Honestly – I tried to make it without any sweetener but ended up using some coconut sugar to give it a more authentic taste. The plain version with just some coconut aminos, toasted sesame oil, and a little rice vinegar was lovely, but not reminiscent of that neon green, sugar soaked salad I used to love. Good news though – coconut sugar is low glycemic, and I guarantee I use much less added sweetener than your local sushi restaurant does. You could also omit the coconut sugar and blend the sauce with a few pitted dates for a natural sweetness.
Wondering what other sushi and poke ingredients have gluten in them? Stay tuned for my poke bowl recipe on Monday – I'll give you the guide!