This quick and easy side salad is made with dried wakame seaweed, silken tofu, thinly sliced cucumber and mini tomatoes tossed in a refreshing rice vinegar based dressing. It’s the perfect palate cleanser or side dish and goes especially well with fish dishes!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes is part of the amazon associates and dokodemo affiliates programme and earns a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
What is wakame salad (Japanese seaweed salad)?
Wakame salad is a type of salad that is popular in Japan, it’s made with a type of seaweed called wakame and typically mixed with other ingredients such as cucumber and tofu. There are other types of seaweed salads throughout Asia, but Japanese wakame salad is characterised by its sour flavour that comes from the addition of rice vinegar.
It is commonly served cold (hiyashi) and as a small side salad, so you would rarely see a big portion of wakame salad served on its own.
What is wakame?
Wakame (scientific name: Undaria pinnatifida) is a species of large seaweed classified in the Chigaiaceae family of the brown algae class kelp. It is said that wakame was first eaten in Japan during the Jomon period (6000-300 B.C.), and has been found along with Jomon earthenware at the Kamegaoka site in Aomori Prefecture.
During the Asuka period (592-710, it was even stipulated as “one of the taxes” in the “Taiho Ritsuryo,” the oldest law in Japan.
However, even in Japan, normal households would use dried wakame, rather than using fresh wakame for the convenience. Dried wakame is simply a fresh wakame that has been dried to lengthen its shelf life. You simply soak it in warm water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate it.
Wakame has a briny and slightly sweet flavour, it’s packed with umami and commonly used in soups, salads or even eaten as a snack.
You can purchase dried wakame here on dokodemo.
What is wakame salad made of?
The ingredients used in wakame salad differ from household to household, but in my recipe, I use following ingredients:
- Dried wakame (seaweed)
- Tofu (I opt for silken tofu, but you can use firm if you prefer)
- Mini tomatoes
- Homemade dressing
- Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
Other than above, here are the ingredient ideas that are commonly used in Japanese households:
- Daikon radish
- Broccoli sprout
- Boiled octopus
- Boiled squid
- Dried young sardines
At the end of the day, it’s salad, so you can remove or add any salady ingredients as you like!
What do you serve with wakame salad?
I mentioned earlier that wakame salad is usually served as a small side dish, you might wonder what goes well with it. Because it has a quite sour flavour, I would recommend to have it with a Japanese fish dish and a bowl of cooked rice. My personal recommendations are following:
- Saba no Shioyaki (Japanese style grilled mackerel)
- Japanese Salted Salmon (Shiozake)
- Saba no Misoni (Mackerel Simmered in Miso)
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Japanese Miso Glazed Salmon
- Teriyaki Cod
- Sanma no Shioyaki (Salt Grilled Pacific Saury)
It’s also a great dish to serve alongside sushi and sashimi!
Homemade dressing for wakame salad
To make homemade sour dressing that goes with wakame salad, I decided to use following ingredients:
I do recommend to use dashi for the depth, but because it’s small amount (1 tbsp), swap it out for water if you don’t have dashi to hand. (If you don’t tend to keep dashi stock, you can mix a tiny sprinkle of dashi granules with water instead.)
Overall, it’s a thin dressing that goes perfectly with wakame salad!
Use kombu dashi in the sauce (or water) and skip the dried bonito flakes to make this dish suitable for vegetarians!
Instructions on how to make wakame salad
Here are my step by step instructions on how to make Japanese wakame salad with homemade dressing. For the full ingredient quantities, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Soak the wakame
Wakame is generally purchased in its dried form and needs to be rehydrated. Soaking time varies from brand to brand but generally it only takes 5-10 minutes. I recommend using warm or room temperature water and make sure the wakame is fully submerged.
Once it’s rehydrated, drain the water and squeeze thoroughly to remove the excess liquid in the wakame before adding it to the salad.
Microwave the tofu
Silken tofu (and tofu in general) has a high water content. If you add it straight to the salad then the excess liquid will leak out and dilute the sauce. To prevent this, I wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and microwave it for 1 minute 30 seconds at 600W. This is a shortcut method to evaporate some of the liquid (rather than pressing) and it works every time!
Leave it to cool for a few minutes and then cut it into cubes, ready to add to your salad.
Make the sauce
The best salad dressings are the ones you can whip up in a minute! In my sauce I use dashi (or water), rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger paste, sugar, sesame oil and ground sesame seeds. Simply mix them all in a small bowl or jug and that’s it! (See recipe card below for ingredient quantities.)
Combine the ingredients
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and thinly slice the cucumber, then place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the salad dressing. Toss them together until well distributed.
Tip: If your tofu is still quite fragile, mix all the other ingredients first and then add the tofu last to stop it from breaking too much.
Wakame salad is best served chilled so I recommend putting it in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before serving! This also gives the ingredients a chance to absorb the sauce so it tastes even better!
It’s a personal preference but I also like to sprinkle some bonito flakes (katsuobushi) on top.
Alternatively you could sprinkle with sesame seeds or even chilli flakes to give it a spicy kick!
Due to the water content in the vegetables, wakame salad is best eaten the day it’s made.
Wakame salad (Japanese seaweed salad) with cucumber
- 5 g dried wakame approx 1 tbsp per 5g
- 150 g silken tofu
- 50 g Japanese or Persian cucumber(s) thinly sliced
- 5 mini tomatoes halved
- bonito flakes (katsuobushi) optional - omit for plant-based diets
- Soak 5 g dried wakame in a bowl of warm water according to the instructions on the packaging. (This usually takes 5-10 mins).
- Wrap 150 g silken tofu in kitchen paper and microwave it for 1 minute 30 seconds at 600W. Allow it to cool slightly before cutting it into bitesize cubes.
- Mix the dressing ingredients (1 tbsp dashi stock, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1½ tbsp soy sauce, ¼ tsp sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp ginger paste and ½ tsp ground sesame seeds) in a small bowl or jug.
- Drain the water from the wakame and squeeze it thoroughly to remove any excess water.
- Take a mixing bowl and add the rehydrated wakame, 50 g Japanese or Persian cucumber(s), 5 mini tomatoes halved and cubed tofu. Add the dressing and mix until well distributed. (Mix gently to avoid breaking the tofu too much. Alternatively, mix without the tofu and add it last.)
- Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before serving.
Wakame (scientific name: Undaria pinnatifida) is a species of large seaweed classified in the Chigaiaceae family of the brown algae class kelp.
It has a briny and slightly sweet flavour, it’s also packed with umami.
Wakame salad is basically what it says on the tin, a salad that contains Japanese wakame seaweed. It can contain any other kinds of vegetables, in my recipe I make wakame salad with cucumber, mini tomatoes and silken tofu.
You can find dried wakame in Asian supermarkets.
Wakame does not need to be cooked, however it usually comes in a dried form so it should be soaked before eating.
It is often used in soups, but it can also be used in salads or as a snack.