When is crispy fried seaweed not crispy fried seaweed?
Go to any Chinese restaurant in the UK and you will find crispy fried seaweed on the menu but in my travels around China where we ate many weird and wonderful things, including hot pots, Beijing duck, tofu shaped to look like tripe, apples grown in the shape of Buddha, shrimp paste fermenting in vats (not a smell to be easily forgotten), dried….. well we really had no idea but had to take a photo for some reason and dumplings that looked like goldfish.
However the one thing we never saw was crispy fried seaweed. I’ve scoured various cookbooks from China too and come up with nothing. So what is this ubiquitous crispy seaweed that we eat so much of in the West?
The origins of Crispy seaweed in the UK are very obscure. It is possible that it was derived from the bar snack 苔條花生 which is deep fried peanuts, sprinkled with a sea moss. My guess is that in UK dark greens like spring greens and kale were plentiful and very cheap and peanuts and seaweed not so accessible so the dish gradually mutated from a mainly peanut bar snack to the mainly greens sprinkled with either ground peanuts or dried shrimp. But despite the fact that it’s not authentic I do love it and as kale grows well in the allotment am always trying to find ways to use it.
The good news is though that you don’t have to deep fry to get great crispy “seaweed”. It’s actually easier in a home kitchen to use a microwave or oven. I also tend to keep clear of the sweetened powder you get on top but you could grind a tablespoon of salted peanuts with a pinch of sugar and sprinkle over if you miss it.
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
5 a day: 1 per serving
- 140g large kale leaves or spring greens
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of Chinese five spice
- 1/4 tsp olive oil
Break down your spring greens or kale in to separate leaves.
Using a large sharp knife, remove the large central ribs which you will not need. Shred the kale/spring green leaves as finely as you can.
Sprinkle with the salt, five spice and oil and toss the leaves until fully coated.
If using a microwave spread the leaves over a microwave safe dish. Microwave on fully power for one minute. Toss the leaves again and repeat until crispy which will take 3-5 minutes.
If using an oven, heat to 200 degrees and spread the leaves finely on a baking tray. Bake for 2 minutes. Check the leaves, toss again and return to the oven. Bake for another 2 minutes and check again. Repeat if still not crispy but be careful as it will burn very easily.