Unlike 20 years ago, it’s much easier to find seaweed food products in the West. I know, because when I was a teenager, sushi was new and hip and strange (remember the lunch scene from The Breakfast Club?), but now you can buy it (and its ingredients) at any major grocery store in the US (and the UK and Ireland based on my experience). But I’ve also learned that not all seaweed is the same. My first experience was with Japanese nori (海苔, のり) seaweed, as shown here:
This is toasted seaweed, meaning that it’s pressed and rolled out into flat sheets, and toasted with sesame oil and a bit of salt. Very tasty and doesn’t have that “fishy” flavor some seafood has. I’ve been told that nori can be hard to digest, but I’ve never had a problem with it. My little girl loves eating nori over rice (norimaki 海苔巻き in Japanese). You can cut nori into small squares like above using common (read: clean) scissors and then use it to take a pinch of cooked rice and eat it like finger-food.
But over the years I have also tried Korean toasted seaweed, called gim (김):
Gim is basically the same thing, seaweed pressed flat, and toasted. However, as you can see it’s a little different looking than nori. This may be due to different preparation methods, or different species of seaweed used, I am not sure.
Compared to Japanese nori, gim is flakier and saltier. Nori can be chewy, and in my opinion gim is easier to eat over rice, but on the other hand, you can roll it up the same as nori. Gim is saltier, while nori has more of a sesame flavor, too.
Looking at similarities, both are highly nutritious and an ideal source of nutrition for vegetarians and vegans. Both go well over rice, or can be munched on alone like a snack. Both have lots of sodium though, so be a little careful.
At our home we tend to eat a lot of Japanese food, but lately we’ve been including Korean food as well, especially after our trip to the Shin-Okubo district in Tokyo. We had a lot of exposure to good Korean food we didn’t know existed, and we came back to the US craving it.
It’s fun because they’re both Asian food, so my wife can enjoy it all the same, but we like exploring the subtle differences between the two, and helps to add more variety to dinner-as-usual. It’s also nice because my daughter can explore foods from many cultures, not just Japanese and American. 🙂