[Wakame (Japan); Miyeok (Korea); Qundaicai (China); Undaria pinnatifida]
Related to kelp, wakame is a popular seaweed for soups and salads, particularly in Japan and Korea. It has a softly crunchy texture and a pleasant slightly spinachy flavor. Most familiar in the U.S. as dry, brittle black tangles in plastic bags. It is also commonly available salted in bags in the refrigerated section of Korean markets.
The photo specimens are dried tangle (center), salted tangle briefly soaked (lower right) and a single piece from the salted tangle spread out (upper left). This is a short length cut from one side of the central stem.
Wakame has recently been found to contain a substance that stimulates production of a fat burning protein, so expect it to become better known in the West. It has become a troublesome invasive weed along the coasts of non-Asian countries, so eat up!
More on Algae.
In Korea and Japan, fresh Wakame is often available, and there is the salted, which has better color and texture than the dried, but most people use the dried most of the time, for economy and ease of storage. This is so prevalent, most recipes don't mention any form except dried.
Buying: This seaweed is easily found in large flat plastic packages in any market serving a Japanese or Korean community, and to a lesser extent in other Asian markets. It is imported from both Japan and Korea, and price varies greatly depending on the company's quality image. Frozen may be available, but is usually a wholesale item for food processors.
Dried Wakame should be very dark greenish black. Any light spots or brownish black instead of greenish black means it is old and/or has been stored improperly. When soaked, it should be very dark green and of uniform color, but green, not black or brown or unevenly colored.
Storing: For dried, keep the package sealed as much as possible and in a cool, dry place away from light. Properly stored it will last a year or so. Salted is best kept refrigerated.
Prep: Dried Wakame should be soaked in cool water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain and wring out excess water. Salted Wakame should be soaked for about 15 minutes to reduce salt.
Yield: 1 ounce of dried wakame, soaked about 20 minutes and wrung out, will yield 8 ounces (8 times). Salted Wakame, after soaking to reduce salt, will be little changed in weight.
Cooking: Wakame is generally used raw in salads, but is also used in soups, where it will be cooked briefly.