Whether you’re keen to add a little more seaweed to your diet or level up your cooking, seaweed butter is a simple way to boost umami while adding a subtle oceanic flavour to your meals.
We offer some recipe suggestions here, and some tips on where to source seaweed for the recipes.
Using unsalted butter for your recipes is essential, as the seaweed will add its own saltiness and umami to the mix. It’s a great way to help reduce your salt intake. (You can always add more salt to taste.)
The basic process is to simply mix finely chopped, ground or flaked dried seaweed into softened butter. For a little fineness and guidance on quantities, here are links to 3 recipes.
Great British Chefs suggest toasting and grinding a mixture nori and dulse before mixing it into softened butter.
Delicious Magazine (UK) mixes lightly pickled wakame and dulse with miso.
Gourmet Traveller offers a more complex combination from the Summertown Aristologist restaurant in South Australia (paired with fresh whiting) that combines shallots, garlic, olive oil, toasted Korean laver sheets, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.
If you’re preparing a batch of butter, you can freeze it for later use. Forming it into a log and wrapping it with cling film makes it easy to cut medallions for use as needed– just slice off the amount you need and return it freezer (Letting frozen butter stand at room temperature for 10 minutes will make it easier to slice).
Stir it into rice or pasta, use it as a finishing touch for seafood, grilled meat, and vegetables, or try it with your favourite crackers or fresh crusty bread.
Sourcing your seaweed
If you’re happy to crumble pre-prepared laver or nori sheets, they’ve become an increasingly popular snack, widely available in Asian grocers and local supermarkets.
Nori and wakame are available from Asian grocers and some of the larger supermarkets. Dulse is native to the European and North American countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean and is harder to come by in Australia; you’ll generally need to track down an online supplier.
If you’re looking for Australian-grown seaweed, wakame is harvested from the wild in both Tasmania and Victoria. (It’s considered an exotic invasive species in both stages, and harvesting is more about culling to remove plants rather than farming the species, as is done in its country of origin, Japan, and in other Asian countries.)
For those who don’t mind foraging and drying their own seaweed, foraging expert Chris Rockley suggests flaked wakame, which can sometimes be found on Victorian and Tasmanian beaches in winter and spring, or crushed sea lettuce, best harvested and dried in summer.
If you’d rather buy than forage your sea lettuce, Australian brand Alg Seaweed offers sea lettuce online, although it’s imported from the EU, as well as Tasmanian wakame.
<Related story: A field guide to seaweed foraging>
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