But it’s still early days of research. The Madrid-based team has been exploring what happens to the taste, texture and smell of meat products when they replace some of the fat and salt content with dried and powdered seaweed. They summarize their progress in a report published last month in the journal Food Research International.
So far, the scientists have primarily experimented with adding three species of seaweed — sea spaghetti, wakame, and nori — to different meats. These seaweeds are already common ingredients in a number of European and Asian dishes. Sea spaghetti is used in salads in coastal areas of western Europe, wakame is popular in miso soup, and nori is used in sushi rolls.
According to one team member, Susana Cofrades of the Institute of Food Science, Technology, and Nutrition in Madrid, the taste of seaweed-sprinkled meats depends on which processed meat they are trying to transform, as well as the type of seaweed they use.
It’s easier to mask the seaweed taste in hot dogs, which typically include a lot of other flavorful ingredients. Hamburgers, on the other hand, are a different beast, she says, since they are often just flavored with salt.
And taste testers tend to prefer the milder flavors of wakame and sea spaghetti over nori. “Nori is the least acceptable,” Cofrades says. “Not only because of its intense flavor but also because it imparts a dark color.”
Seaweed is already beginning to catch on as a nutritional powerhouse in the United States. People are tossing it in salads and pasta dishes and snacking on it dried (think chips).
It has a number of potentially health-boosting contents such as dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. And the scientists in Spain hope to harness the nutrition in seaweed to possibly turn hot dogs and hamburgers …