This traditional Japanese-style cucumber and wakame salad is a type of sunumono — vinegary cold dishes that add savor to the plate. Wakame, is one of the most widely used sea vegetables in Japanese cuisine, surpassed only by nori and kombu.
Sunomono preparations can impart a range of vinegary, salty flavors, from mild to quite tart. This salad is on the mild side, though you can always ramp up the vinegar and salt to your taste.
Look for wakame in natural foods stores and online sources. The original Japanese dish is often made with kyuri, or Japanese cucumber, but since this vegetable isn’t readily available in Western markets, a firm, crisp English cucumber is a good stand-in.
For the most part, wakame — a dark-green, long-leafed sea vegetable — is harvested from the Hokkaido area of the Sea of Japan. It’s is closest in appearance and use to kombu and with its mild flavor, is a good choice for those who aren’t fond of strong sea flavors.
Like other sea vegetables, wakame is rich in minerals, notably calcium, phosphorus, and iron. It also contains an array of trace minerals. including iodine and selenium, and moderate amounts of several B vitamins and vitamin C.
- 10- to 12-inch length of wakame
- 1 long English cucumber, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup matchstick-cut daikon radish or turnip, optional
- 2 tablespoons very thinly sliced scallion
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon natural granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- Salt the thinly sliced cucumber lightly and leave in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread on several layers of paper towel, cover with more paper towel and squeeze to extract moisture.
- Meanwhile, reconstitute the wakame by soaking for 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Drain well and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Combine the reconstituted wakame in a shallow container with the cucumber, optional daikon, and scallion.
- Add the vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil toss well to combine. Cover and let stand for 1 hour or so before serving, stirring from time to time.
- Just before serving, toss with the sesame seeds. Transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.
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