Lately I’ve seen quite a few recipe posts that feature kelp noodles, especially as a carb-free replacement for noodles. The type of kelp noodle these recipes call for is stripped of its outer green/brown layer in order to resemble vermicelli or bean thread aka glass noodles. This process removes not only flavor but also vitamins and minerals. While still a decent alternative for the paleo inclined, I prefer to use sea spaghetti, or Himanthalia elongata, a species of kelp with a natural noodle-like shape (no processing required).
Nutrients in Sea Spaghetti vs. Kelp Noodles
According the the nutrition fact labels of kelp noodle brands on the market, a 4oz serving contains 4g dietary fiber, 15% calcium, and 4% iron. In contrast, a 4oz serving of sea spaghetti contains 5% dietary fiber and 25% calcium, 400% vitamin C, 40% potassium, 29% magnesium, and 56% iodine.
Unprocessed kelp like sea spaghetti and other sea vegetables play an important role in staying healthy and balanced, especially when following a paleo-vegan diet. I try to eat some form of it daily; if not as a meal, in the form of spirulina, blue-green algae or chorella supplement. I’m kind of a sea vegetable connoisseur, and I enjoy the natural flavor and texture of all varieties. Considering the reduced nutritional value, bland flavor profile, and vaguely chemical aroma prior to cooking/soaking, kelp noodles just don’t do it for me.
Also, considering the cost of some varieties it seems like a waste to make the splurge and not benefit from the vitamin C, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium naturally present in kelp.
Where to Buy Sea Spaghetti
Sea Spaghetti is harvested in Brittany and the west coast of Ireland. Shipment to the United States or elsewhere can be costly, especially direct from the manufacturer. Fortunately, like other retailers in the UK and Europe, some manufacturers of sea spaghetti have partnered with Amazon.com to significantly reduce the cost of shipping as part of an overall purchase of $25.
I have not ordered sea spaghetti online, but tried it at a raw vegan potluck and purchased some from a friend who bought it wholesale to reduce the cost. I later discovered it on sale at an Asian grocery store in San Francisco for $1.99. It was merely labeled “dried seaweed” but the flavor and texture seemed like sea spaghetti. *Edit: It was arame, which looks and tastes very similar so if you can’t get the real thing I recommend it. Look for “long arame” at Asian grocery stores.
How to use Sea Spaghetti, Arame, etc.
Soak overnight or for at least an hour if you choose to use it raw. You can also boil it or cook it under 115 degrees Fahrenheit so it is technically raw according to the principles of a raw food diet. To use as a replacement for spaghetti (as a raw foodist) soak it first and heat on low until the water achieves warmth to your liking/dietary requirements. For those who don’t follow a strict raw diet, heat it as you would regular pasta. If this is the case for you, there isn’t a need to soak it first (though some experts say this is more optimal for nutrient absorption). Use in place of spaghetti in any recipe, in a salad, or by itself. I like it with sesame seeds and no dressing or other ingredients (see photo, above). It’s also great with tahini and carrots, a recipe I developed my sophomore year at college and rediscovered a few days ago. I’ll post the recipe soon.
After visiting a few other Asian groceries and a bit of internet research, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that any “string” or “sea tangle” seaweed would function as sea spaghetti. Not all of us can or want to pay $25 in shipping for Irish or French sea spaghetti. I no longer keep in touch with the aforementioned friend from the raw vegan potluck, and haven’t met anyone else who wants to buy it in bulk. That said, I think it’s a great product and perfect replacement for wheat or rice or quinoa or other grain pasta…but other seaweeds can work just as well. Enter: arame and other types that are often marketed as wakame or kombu but are cut in strips to resemble spaghetti also. I was never a huge fan of spaghetti anyway, but the sheer novelty of the fact that seaweed can emulate it so easily and pack such a profoundly more potent nutrient punch–I had to write this post. Not to mention the fact that it’s carb-free and causes weight loss while flooding your body with more nutrients. Did I mention nutrients? Oh yeah, I did.