Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fooding Up: The Seaweed Sandwich

No matter what happens to the food supply, there'll always be algae - vast groupings of unicellular plants that are most familiar as simple seaweed. Sure, that's the case now, but once the Grim Meathook Future inevitably arrives, what we today dismiss blithely as "seaweed" will be the foundation of civilization! Wars will be fought over access to seaweed supplies! Everyone will have their seaweed cereal and seaweed burgers and seaweed steaks and work to carve life out of a world gone mad!

Until then, it's strictly an ancillary food item, but why not acquire a taste for it? Today, known as roasted seaweed or nori, it's most commonly used to wrap sushi and onigiri. If you're in the Vancouver area you can get it on top of some Japadog hot dogs, and if you have your own supply they go well with burgers, sandwiches, or whatever you fancy, really. I've heard the taste of nori sheets described as salty, but really there's nothing in standard North American cuisine that really matches up.

It's getting your own supply that can be the tricky thing, assuming you're not in East Asia. Roasted seaweed has only been available in North America for fifty years, and it's always been closely associated with Japanese cuisine over here. I don't recall ever coming across it in Ontario grocery stores, but when I found that Donald's Market was selling ten packs of nori for under five bucks, you'd better believe I snapped that up. I mean, it's imported Korean seaweed that comes in packages covered with writing that I can't even begin to understand. What's not to love?

I wouldn't be surprised if part of that lack of availability comes down to the associations that come with the word "seaweed" in European Canadian culture. It's a negatively loaded word, and a lot of people just aren't that interested in challenging themselves. I can imagine that if you're white, there's at least a fair chance that the idea of eating seaweed hits you as being rather grody. Yet it's just one of the casual assumptions that European-origin cultures have carried with them over the centuries. The same algae that's used to make nori in East Asia exists in Europe as well, after all. It just comes down to different cultural priorities that it was domesticated in one place but not the other.

Nevertheless - to the food! It didn't take me long to discover that nori makes a perfectly good snack all on its own; with individual sheets being practically two-dimensional while remaining taste sensations, they're rather easy on any diet plan you may be on as well. So I thought I'd depart from my usual subjects a bit to write about the seaweed sandwich - undoubtedly a staple food of the grim, dark future! It doesn't really appear to be a thing yet; my Google searches generally turn up combinations like tofu and seaweed sandwiches, but even those are buried below video game and SpongeBob SquarePants references.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 4 or 5 sheets of roasted seaweed
  • Butter or margarine
Preparation is extremely simple. First you take the bread and, very lightly, add butter or margarine as if you're adding Vegemite - you only need a small bit, otherwise the flavor of the seaweed will be overpowered. Once that's done, add the nori sheets, close, and eat. Preparation time: about twenty seconds. If you can make toast, you can make a seaweed sandwich.

Also, cut it diagonally. It looks classier that way.

On its own, it's just a snack - nori is light enough that it doesn't come close to being a meal, any more than two slices of bread would be a meal. But it's a good snack, full of greens and sea vegetable power, and healthy to boot - 3.5 grams of nori, so about maybe six sheets, contains ten calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, and fifteen percent of your daily recommended Vitamin C intake. Plus, it's good, with that special seaweed tang. So if you come across packages of roasted seaweed in the grocery store, pick it up and try it!

Now, though, it's time to eat. That sandwich you see up there? That's my breakfast.


  1. Neither bread nor seaweed is an actual food. They are merely food delivery systems. The combination of both with nothing else is blowing my mind.

  2. In the Maritime provinces, seaweed has been eaten here for centuries. Called `dulse``, it`s harvested at low tide, spread out in parking lots, and sun-dried. We used to ship trainloads of it to inland regions, where it was eaten to prevent goiter. Then the federal government mandated that table salt should be iodized to prevent micronutrient deficiency, and the market collapsed. It`s still a major industry on Grand Manan Island. In PEI, they stilll harvest a different seaweed and extract carageenan for use in the dairy industry.

  3. Here in Thailand one of the most popular snacks is fried seaweed (Tae Kae Noi). Just discovered this morning how delicious it is on top of a slice of bread! You'll have to try it if you visit Thailand.