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by Jacqueline M. Newman

Unusual Ingredients

Fall Volume: 2014 Issue: 21(3) page(s): 21 - 22

Also known as sea vegetables, these healthy foods were featured in the 2001 Fall issue on page 9 with a recipe for seaweed soup and others, even a fruit kanten made with ice cream. In the issue before this one, in the Letters to the Editor column, there was a query about these vegetables; so with this increased interest, we share some additional information and more recipes about these foods of the sea.

They vegetables are not new to the Chinese cuisine. They were poetically written about a few times in the Book of Songs written circa 800 - 600 BCE. They are correctly called 'marine algae' and the Chinese say they detoxify, are diuretics, build the body's yin, reduce blood pressure, and can remove radiation. They also say they act as lymphatic cleansers and alkalize blood. Western doctors suggest them to those wanting to lose weight, lower cholesterol, rejuvenate lungs, and positively impact a person's gastrointestinal system.

The most common seaweeds are dulse which are red algae. They grow up to one foot long, are good in soups and salads, and are broad leaves and coarse. Kelp is another class of seaweeds. These are usually brown, often look ribbon-like, have thick leaves, are popular, and are used in soups and stews.

Hair seaweed is another type, it is also known as sea moss and the Chinese call them fa cai. They are dark purple and actually look like tangled hair. During Chinese New Year, people wish each other gong hei fa cai which means 'may you be rich.' This explains why this seaweed is popular during this holiday, and because they believe it cleanses the body.

One granny we know makes a bowl-shaped basket of them and then fills it with many minced mushrooms and fa cai with many minced mushrooms to serve at her reunion dinner. It is a great New Year dish.

Another sea vegetable, namely laver sheets can be brown, purple, green, gray, or black. These sheets the Japanese call nori and use them to wrap sushi. They can and are also made into disk shapes and used in soups and stews.

There are other Asiatic sea vegetable varieties. One is Manchurian, another Japanese, and even an Armenian drupe that might have originated in China. They were found in the wild and are now grown in California. Historians say they have been around four thousand or so years and may have originated in mountain river valleys in Shansi and throughout China, they are known as hsing.

Many sea vegetables are cultivated in China's northern lands. The white ones from Qingdao are called bai hsing. Most contain citric and malic acids and are said to quench thirst. Some are big and flat, others wavy and thick. Actually, not all are actually sea vegetables. We know one called 'crispy seaweed' that is not one but rather leaves of bok cai fried to look like them. To complicate matters, there are recipes not with bok cai but made with savoy cabbage it is not available. These are very thin shreds of these vegetables fried with salt, sugar, pine nuts or peanuts added minus exterior paper-like skins, then deep fried. As there are many different sea vegetables, bet there are others, too.
Rice with Pork and Seaweed Sheets
3 Tablespoons minced pork shoulder
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 scallion, green part only, minced
1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon bonito powder or fish bouillon
dash ground white pepper
1 sheet purple laver, also known as nori, thinly shredded
1. Mix pork with the soy sauce, cornstarch, scallion, bonito or fish bouillon, and the ground pepper.
2. Boil three to four cups of water, add the pork and simmer for two minutes, then add all the other ingredients except for the purple laver strips, then simmer another minute.
3. Serve in individual bowls, sprinkle some seaweed on top of each bowl, and serve.
Kelp. Chili, and Ginger
1 and 1/2 cup shredded kelp, put in boiling water for two minutes, then in ice water for one minute, then drained
1 small red chili pepper, finely shredded
2 slices fresh ginger, one finely shredded
2 Tablespoons white soy sauce
1 Tablespoon white sesame oil
1. Mix cold kelp, chili pepper slivers, ginger, and the soy sauce and refrigerate for two hours.
2. Put on a pre-chilled plate, and then pour sesame oil over this mixture, and serve.
Pig Tongue with Hair Seaweed
1/2 ounce hair seaweed, soaked in warm water until soft, then drained and tossed with the oil. Set this aside.
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 slices fresh ginger, one finely minced
1 pig tongue, simmered for two hours in water just below the boiling point, then remove, peel and thinly slice the tongue
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon Shao Xing wine
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon rock sugar, crushed
3 leaves lettuce, slivered
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1. Simmer the cooked tongue with slice of fresh ginger, oyster sauce, wine, and the rock sugar, then toss it with the cornstarch. Next, remove from the heat, and let it rest for half an hour. Then toss with the crushed sugar.
2. Wash the lettuce, blanch it for one minute, toss it with the soy sauce, and put it on a serving platter. Put the tongue slices around the outside of the platter, the hair seaweed in the middle.
Shrimp with Seaweed
1 pound fresh shrimp
2 Tablespoons kelp, soaked in cold water for half an hour, then drained
1 lemon, juiced, pits and peel discarded
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon white sesame seeds
1. Simmer the shrimp for three minutes, then remove their shells, put them into ice water for two minutes, drain, and set then aside for three minutes.
2. Soak seaweed for half an hour in cold water, then drain.
3. Toss shrimp and the kelp or another seaweed with lemon juice and set aside covered in the refrigerator for half an hour. Remove, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and the rice vinegar, and toss again; then put this on a serving dish.
4. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and serve.
Seaweed Rolls
1/2 cup hair seaweed, soaked for fifteen minutes in cold water, drained, and then cut in half-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 potato, simmered until almost soft, peeled, then mashed or diced very fine
1/4 cup cooked green peas
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
10 water chestnuts, diced
1/2 cup Chinese celery, diced fine
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoons mushroom powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups meat or vegetable stock
1. Mix hair seaweed and cornstarch, then spread this on a sheet of plastic wrap about five inches by ten inches.
2. Mix potato. Peas, red pepper, water chestnuts, and celery with the second amount of cornstarch with the salt mushroom powder, sugar, and pepper and spread this over the hear seaweed, press it down, then roll tightly and twist plastic wrap around the ends to hold it together.
3. Put stock in a pot or in a steamer with the rolled materials and simmer or steam for ten minutes. Remove the roll and the plastic wrap, and allow to cool for fifteen minutes or more. Cut slices, put then on their sides on a platter and serve.
Hair Moss for Arhats
1/2 ounce hair moss soaked for twenty minutes, then drained
10 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked until soft, stems discarded, caps sliced
10 Tablespoons silken tofu, mashed
1 square red bean curd, mashed
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup tree seeds, their pits removed and discarded
1/2 cup drained canned gingko nuts
1/2 cup melting mouth peas cut in thin slivers
4 fried bean curd squares, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
6 slices fresh ginger, minced
1. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil and the ginger, and in half minute, the mushroom slices and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Next, add all the other ingredients and stir-fry for two minutes stirring well, then add two tablespoons water and simmer for two more minutes, then serve.

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