An important food source in many Asian cultures, seaweed is a primitive sea plant belonging to the algae family with origins dating back millions of years. Japanese cuisine employs different varieties (such as kombu, laver and nori) for many uses including soups, vegetables, tea, and as a general seasoning. The Irish are partial to the seaweed known as carrageen, and is widely used throughout Asia. Seaweed is a rich source of iodine, an important nutrient. Many seaweeds also provide alginic acid, a jellylike substance that's used as a stabilizer and thickener in a wide variety of commercially processed foods such as ice creams, puddings, flavored milk drinks, pie fillings, soups and syrups. See also dulse; hijiki; kelp; limu; wakame.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.