Crispy seaweed is an irresistible classic Chinese takeaway dish. You can recreate this delicious treat with the help of our extensively researched recipe.
It's easier to make at home than you would think!
What is crispy seaweed made of?
This Asian side dish is deep-fried spring greens sprinkled with a combination of sesame seeds, Chinese five-spice powder, chilli, sugar and salt. Many food reviewers describe its taste as savoury and a faint reminder of bacon, even.
Crispy seaweed cabbage is common, but people also use kale or bok choy. It is also sometimes served with a sweet chilli dip.
So, despite it being called 'seaweed', no ocean plants are used to make this tasty dish! It's a well-kept secret among restauranteurs.
This fried snack is often found in Chinese eateries in the UK and Asian cities like Hongkong. We explore why this dish uses greens instead of actual seaweed based on online research.
If you were wondering, yes, there is seaweed in China. However, historians discovered that in 600 BC, the palace served the algae only to a king's special guests. This fact might have contributed to the substitution using veggies.
The dish then travelled with Chinese seamen from Ningbo to the UK after 1842. UK food expert Ken Hom theorises Chinese cooks in the UK swapped sea greens for veggies due to a lack of ingredients in the past. So, like other East Asian cuisines like shrimp toast and chicken sweetcorn soup, the Chinese crispy seaweed recipe became a popular hit in the West.
Whether truth or fiction, it is undoubtedly a popular item. This popularity is because it is a dish that can be enjoyed on its own or as a side dish. The Chinese usually use it to accompany soups, stews, and salads. The health benefits are another bonus for its popularity.
Most people would order it at a Chinese restaurant as a takeaway, but you can also get premade seaweed from Amazon or any Asian supermarket.
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A serving of crispy seaweed is 182 calories, according to the Myfitnesspal app. This is for a serving of 28 grams.
To make crispy seaweed cabbage, you need two simple ingredients: outer cabbage leaves and sugar. You can also substitute cabbage for kale to make crispy seaweed kale. Finally, you can try using five-spice powder and shrimp powder for the toppings, giving the dish an umami taste.
If you want the dish to be savoury, buy sesame seeds, chilli, or Chinese five-spice powder for an additional kick.
In this section, let's find out some typical Chinese crispy seaweed toppings.
Asian restaurants usually add sesame seeds and salt, but you'll also see a pinch of golden shrimp powder. This powder is made from sundried and grounded shrimp, with a lingering salty, fishy aftertaste.
Many refer to this particular fishy taste as 'umami'. 'Umami' is a Japanese word meaning 'essence of delicious' and has been described as the fifth flavour that lends your food a meaty, savoury texture.
You can use Shiitake powder to add 'umami' to your dish for our vegan and vegetarian friends!
Apart from that, you can also top the dish with Chinese five-spice powder. Some people use sunflower seeds instead of sesame.
You can make crispy seaweed using an oven. But, first, get the chosen greens of your choice: kale or cabbage.
Then, add your greens with salt and some oil. Toss until everything is coated evenly before sprinkling sesame seeds.
Preheat the oven to about 170 degrees Celsius and line a large baking tray with foil. Sprinkle dark brown soft sugar. Bake the vegetables for about 7 minutes before removing them from the oven and tossing them.
Pop them back for another 5-7 minutes. Lastly, serve and garnish with more sesame seeds and other toppings.
It's easy to make this Chinese takeaway dish in an air fryer. First, cut your chosen greens and place them in a bowl. Next, add sugar, salt, and oil and mix until evenly coated the veggies.
Next, pop the veggies in the air fryer for 15-20 minutes at 150 degrees Celcius. Stop halfway and toss the dish before placing it back in to continue frying.
Here are some cooking tips for crispy seaweed to ensure you get a nice fried batch of crunchy veggies.
First, when you wash cabbage leaves, make sure they are very dry before adding oil or seasoning. Next, dry the leaves on a clean tea towel and soak up moisture because excess water will affect the texture.
Also, add hot oil to season the dish, whether cooking in a wok or using an oven or an air fryer. Whichever your choice of equipment, take it out and occasionally stir to stop the leaves from clumping together.
If you want to steer clear of oil, a tip is to use low-calorie cooking spray and bake it. Be sure to bake for a few minutes and then check on the dish as these leaves burn very quickly.
Crispy Seaweed Recipe | Using Airfryer or Oven
- First, thoroughly wash the cabbage leaves before completely drying them.
- Cut out the thick centre stems of the cabbage leaves. Then cut the remaining soft green leaves into thin threads of about 2-3 mm. The thinner they are, the crispier they will turn out.
- Next, coat the cut leaves with oil and toss them with sesame seeds and salt.
- Air fry the seaweed chicken at 180 degrees Celcius for 7 minutes (in a preheated air fryer) on a greased metal plate. Then turn over and air-fry the other side for a further 7 mins. f you prefer to bake in an oven, bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius for approximately 10-15 mins.
- Finally, garnish the crispy seaweed with some golden shrimp powder and five-spice powder. Serve and enjoy while it is still hot!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
If you're looking to make this dish the traditional way, check out NipaNazmu COOKING ZONE's video recipe! They prepare it with a sugary topping that enhances the crispy texture of this dish!
Whether you decide to deep fry veggies for a snack or buy them premade, either way, eating more greens is always a good idea.
With this crispy seaweed recipe, you can now make a popular Chinese takeaway classic at home! We love to see our readers' creations, so share your final dish with us by tagging @honestfoodtalks on Pinterest.