Back in the early 1990s, McDonald’s released its answer to health-concious alternatives with the McLean Deluxe hamburger, and almost as quickly as it was released, it was scorned, primarily because of its main ingredient—carrageenan, a seaweed extract that worked to bind water to lean beef for a more moist patty. Boy oh boy, did that shake things up. I remember riding in the backseat of my family’s bright blue Chevy Astro van with my brother making loud and obnoxious fun of our mom when she decided to sample the new sandwich at the drive-thru one day. I also remember the dismay when she declared that it was “not too bad.”
How could that be? How could that slimy stuff that got caught in your bathing suit when swimming in the ocean be not only edible, but also tasty? Thankfully, unlike the McLean, which was discontinued, my sensibilities have evolved, and I have come to enjoy seaweed, whether it is the splash of color in my miso soup, the structure that embraces my tuna roll or the ingredient that makes my skin cream work like a charm.
In the kitchen
There are many varieties of seaweed, as it is a term encompassing numerous types of marine algae and plants. It can be red, green or brown, and it generally is anchored at the bottom of the sea or to solid structures by rootlike holdfasts.1