This Isn't Your Average Green Salad
Seaweed in a salad and dressed with a light, vinegar-based dressing is a good way
to get introduced to the greens. (photo by Dominic Riley)
I was watching some sort of eating competition on TV the other night (jealous that I wasn't there, of course) and one participant was wearing a T-shirt that read "Meat is Murder. Tasty, Tasty Murder." After rewinding a few times to make sure that's really what his shirt said, I considered looking online to find that same shirt.
There was no way in hell I'd ever wear it outside of my apartment; well, maybe to go for a run because that would be somewhat ironic, but that's as far as I'd go. Was there really a need to express the fact that I would give up my left thumb any day for a huge, juicy steak with some French mustard on the side? No, it wasn't that serious. So I closed Google and was convinced that this week, meat would be the star.
That was until a friend mentioned Japanese. Usually when someone says anything about Japanese food, people's minds go straight to sushi. And my mind usually goes straight to meat, but murder wasn't on my mind this particular night. Instead, I thought of one of my favorite Japanese dishes--seaweed salad.
I'm definitely not what you'd call a salad kind of guy. I find that grass is more fitting for the football field than my plate. Yet, when it comes to seaweed salad, my plate's wide open. The fresh, cool crunch of the seaweed and sweet, tangy light dressing is a refreshing change for any carnivore interested in trading in a knife and fork for a set of chopsticks.
Seaweed salad can be prepared with different varieties of seaweed. The most popular kind is wakame, the thick, dark-green, spinach-like seaweed commonly used in miso soup. Wakame is sweet rather than salty, and is a great source of calcium, protein, iron and antioxidants. Other varieties include arame, dulse, hijiki, ao-nori, & agar.
The combination of different types of seaweed adds unique flavor, color and texture to the salad. The dressing, which can make or break the salad, is vinegar based and includes ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.
This dish doesn't sound too harmless does it? Why is it that people are afraid of seaweed? I've been out for Japanese with several friends who turn up their noses at sushi because they don't like seaweed. What did it ever do to you? I know it's gotten tangled in your toes at the beach. I know it smells kind of fishy. But give it a chance! It's harmless, especially in a salad.
Once I got over my beef (let's not completely forget about meat) with seaweed and tried this salad, I knew my Japanese dining experiences would always be a pleasant getaway. A dare in 7th grade to eat a huge sheet of dried nori may have sent me running away from seaweed, but one taste of Zip Fusion's seaweed salad and I was quickly reeled back in.
Zip Fusion prides itself on its California Pan-Asian cuisine, and not surprisingly to me, claims to have award-winning seaweed salad. They definitely get my award, in taste and presentation. In their salad they use three thinly shredded types of seaweed (one spicy), carrots, radish, cucumbers, fried dough "crunchies," and sesame seeds. Their delicious dressing, which should be bottled and placed on my refrigerator door, is a sweet blend of balsamic vinegar, ginger, pear and orange.
The appetizer size is big enough to share, but if you're in the mood for a light, healthful and fresh dish, the dinner size makes a sufficient and filling meal. So next time you're downtown in Little Tokyo, treat your taste buds and name-engraved chopsticks (yes, I own a pair) to Zip's seaweed salad and for that one night, leave murder to Dexter.