This seaweed is sold dried in round discs and the colour is jet black with a purplish sheen (how it gets its name), once cooked it becomes reddish brown. It swells up a lot when soaked so a little goes a long way. This seaweed is not cooked to a mush like Welsh laver bread. Normally takes about 10 min boiling so it still has a slight crunch. I normally use it for soup like this recipe below.
3 cups Pork or chicken stock (homemade or stock cube)
150 – 180g minced pork*
1/3 piece seaweed or Zi Cai
1 piece (7cm sq) chinese tofu**
1 - 2 tbsp cooking wine or brandy
soy sauce and/or salt
some sesame oil or chilli oil
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped
- Add dash of soy and pinch of pepper to minced pork, mix and leave aside.
- Soak the seaweed for 10 minutes till softened. Pour into a sieve and drain off excess water.
- Heat the stock till boiling
- Use a teaspoon and shape pork into tiny meatballs and drop straight into the boiling stock. Boil for few minutes.
- Add seaweed and tofu cut into bite size. Boil for another few minutes till piping hot.
- Seasoned with enough soy or salt, ground pepper and wine/brandy.
- Pour into soup bowl sprinkle with chopped spring onion and few drops of chilli oil or sesame oil
* For vegetarian version, use vegetable stock and replace pork with a handful button mushrooms.
**If you don’t have tofu, you can swirl in one beaten egg at end of the cooking while the liquid is boiling hot to form egg ribbons.