Edible Seaweed: Powder vs Flakes
How does form affect flavour in edible seaweed?
Co-founder Xa Milne has all the answers:
"Simply, the smaller and finer the grain, the bigger the taste. So, per teaspoon of seaweed powder there's more surface area to deliver flavour than in seaweed flakes.
Dried seaweed powder offers an immediate intensity, whilst blending seamlessly into food. Seaweed flakes however deliver slow-release umami bombs and a little texture, perfect as a seasoning or a finishing touch.
Meanwhile, fresh whole leaf seaweed tastes surprisingly mild. The savoury flavour deepens with chewing, releasing a sweet aftertaste. In cooking, whole leaf seaweed is often used to add base notes to stocks.
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Seaweed flakes for a considered flavour
Dried seaweed flakes deliver colour and texture, offering a satisfying mouth feel and slower taste delivery.
These millimetre-sized seaweed particles melt pleasingly on the tongue, allowing protein taste receptors to welcome glutamates into the body. It's this umami effect which makes seaweed an effective salt replacement and seasoning.
Take, for example, Dulse flakes. With their meaty, bacony, anchovy notes they're adept at enhancing the savoury richness of tomato stews, and excel when combined with punchy spices in a marinade for Specially Selected Pork, Scotch Lamb or Scotch Beef. Try Dulse with other umami flavours such as peppers, cured meat, onions, mushrooms and Parmesan too.
Mara Seaweed's founders were drawn to the versatility of the flake. A tablespoon of Kombu kelp flakes makes a robust stock (try 30g in 1.8L of water), whilst our finely tuned blend, Shony, balances sweet with savoury for a well-rounded flavour.
Seaweed powder for an instant boost
Powdered seaweed is often the chef’s choice, but it's also perfect for those who require a finer consistency or want a stronger burst of flavour. A little goes a long way as the flavour is concentrated and adds intense, salty piquancy to dishes. At home, it's a natural choice for boosting your iodine levels in fruit or veg smoothies.
Powders blend instantly and successfully with flour and other dry ingredients in baking, offering a dash of delicious umami dust in bread, scones and biscuits. The herbier, saltier notes of Kombu powder also create a lovely coating for fish when combined with cornflour or herbs. The alginates in seaweed powder can be used to thicken sauces or emulsions too.
A word on whole leaf seaweed
Although Mara doesn't currently sell seaweed by the leaf (technically known as a frond), that doesn't mean we can't share our knowledge!
For the keen forager, new season shoots of Dulse (Palmaria Palmata) or Wakame (Alaria Esculenta) are tender enough to be eaten raw and unprocessed. Chop into salads, soups, dips or lightly sautée as a side dish.
Kombu (Laminaria Digitata), or Kelp, is the basis of Japanese dashi stock. The wet, fibrous leaves can also be sliced into matchstick-sized pieces and softened in soy sauce and ginger for a tasty accompaniment to fish or meat. You can find the recipe in The Seaweed Cookbook.
When dried, the natural saltiness of seaweed increases by around six times, which means a stronger taste. It also has a long shelf life, yet can be easily re-hydrated. Try chewing on some as a veggie version of biltong or jerky.
A healthy addition to the larder
Whether dried or wet, flaked or powder, seaweed contains approximately 85% less sodium than gourmet or table salt. It's loaded with potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and iodine: mineral salts which give it flavour, and - you have been warned - make seaweed just a tiny bit moreish too."