Slimy green algae is taking over China’s beaches for an alarming reason

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RocketNews 24/Business Insider:

Every summer for the past eight years, huge algae blooms have taken over the beaches near Qingdao, a city in the Shandong province of China.

The bright green stuff has blanketed at least 13,500 square miles of ocean this summer, according to the South China Morning Post.

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. In 2013, the blooms got as big as the state of Connecticut! Check out this year’s algae infestation.

The algae blooms every year on the beaches in Qingdao, on China’s northeast coast between Beijing and Shanghai. The first blooms appeared in 2007 after seaweed farmers working south of Qingdao switched up how they clean off their rafts.

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Farmers use the rafts to make nori, a type of edible seaweed that’s popular in Japan. When the rafts are cleaned off in the spring, along comes the algae, which thrives off the leftover seaweed nutrients and the warm conditions in the Yellow Sea.

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Researchers think the reason for the algae growth in Qingdao is that seaweed farmers started cleaning their rafts farther offshore. This gave the algae the chance to spread out and make its way to the shore up near the city.

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Ever since the large blooms started popping up, tourists have viewed it as a summer tradition to head down to the beach and play in the algae.

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While it’s a ton of fun to play in, it’s actually connected to pollution from nearby agriculture and industrial plants that gets in the water.

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But luckily, there are some ways to use the algae to benefit the community: It makes for a good fertilizer and green energy source.

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Cleaning it up is no small feat — it has to be done quickly, because the algae begins to stink like rotten eggs when it decomposes. Here, workers scoop up the algae during the 2014 bloom.

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It’s not just stinky; it’s also incredibly heavy. Workers who cleaned up the 2013 bloom collected more than 19,800 tons of the stuff — about the same weight as 9,900 cars!

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If left where it is, the algae can spread to other beaches and become an even bigger environmental problem.

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Wasabi and sashimi bagels on sale now in Japan!

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RocketNews 24:

I’ve never been much of a bagel fan. It’s got nothing to do with a dislike of carbs, as I’ll happily chow down on sandwiches, rice bowls, and noodles. Bagels, though, have always struck me as sort of bland.

Sure, I realize there are ways to make bagels more flavorful, but a lot of the most common additions, like berries or cream cheese, don’t really do much for me. But when I found out that one of Japan’s most popular bagel chains was adding a kick to their offerings with a wasabi bagel, my interest was piqued. Then, when I learned that they also offered a bagel sandwich with tuna sashimi, my next meal was planned.

These Japanese-style bagels come courtesy of Bagel & Bagel, the redundantly named chain that’s much more creative with their product lineup than their company’s moniker. Like their watermelon bagels we tried last summer, the wasabi and sashimi versions are part of a limited time lineup, this time collectively called the Japanese Fair menu and available until February 22.

▼ The Yokohama Lumine branch of Bagel & Bagel

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Joining the non-sandwich wasabi bagel in the Japanese Fair are varieties made with mochi rice cake, edamame soybeans and hijiki (a type of seaweed), nori (yet another type of seaweed), shiitake mushroom with sesame, and kinako (a cinnamon-like flavoring) with white chocolate.

▼ Mochi (left) and hijiki edamame (right)

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▼ Nori (left) and wasabi (right)

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Intriguing as they all sound, there’re only so many bagels you can plow through in one sitting, and for this taste-test, the two that made the cut were the 200-yen (US $1.70) wasabi bagel and 490-yen (US $4.15) tuna marinated with soy sauce and wasabi mayonnaise (which sounds slightly more eloquent in Japanese as tzuke maguro to wasabi mayonezu).

▼ The wrapper says “New York style bagels,” but I don’t recall seeing any with sashimi when I visited the Big Apple.

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Initially, I was a little disappointed, since I’d expected opening the package to produce a blast of sinus-clearing wasabi aroma. No such luck, as it smelled pretty much like any other bagel. Still, I wasn’t giving up hope yet. Even with no wasabi experience for the olfactory senses, the ring-shaped piece of bread’s green color promised one for the taste buds, as did the ingredient list that mentioned both wasabi paste and powder.

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I took a bite, and found that the bagel is pleasantly chewy. Initially, there’s not a whole lot of flavor going on, but as you continue to chew, the spiciness starts to kick in. While it’s not nearly as spicy as the dollop of wasabi you’ll find served along with your meal in a sushi restaurant, it’s still tasty. This would actually go pretty well with a glass of beer, producing an effect that’s sort of a combination between a soft pretzel and spicy kakipisoy crackers.

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Now it was time for the main event, the tuna sashimi bagel, which uses the same dough as the plain wasabi bagel. This one comes wrapped in butcher paper, just like Japanese restaurants serve their hamburgers.

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Although it isn’t mentioned in the already too-long-for-its-own-good official name of the tuna marinated with soy sauce and wasabi mayonnaise bagel, the first thing that greets your eyes is the heaping helping of mizuna. While mizuna translates as potherb mustard, it doesn’t taste anything like the yellow condiment or the seeds its made from. Instead, mizuna is a crisp leaf vegetable that’s commonly found in salads and hot pots in Japan, with a flavor that’s just a touch on the sharp and bitter side but far milder than, say, arugula.

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▼ Some of the wasabi-infused mayo

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Remove the wrapper entirely, and you’ll see the tuna sashimi peeking out at you through the middle of the bagel. You’ll also notice another ingredient that’s left off the marque in the form of small strips of nori seaweed. Nori is commonly added to rice bowls topped with marinated tuna sashimi, though, so some Japanese diners might assume it’ll be included in the sandwich even without being told about its presence.

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As for the tuna itself, it’s concentrated towards the center of the sandwich and coarsely diced. It’s not as soft as the tuna in negi toro sushi, though. If you’ve ever had the variety of sashimi called naka ochi, you’ll know what to expect here, as the texture is still substantial enough to make this feel like a proper sandwich filling, and not just a bagel with a paste spread on it.

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So how does it taste? Pretty good, actually. All of the mizuna gives you the impression that you’re eating something incredibly healthy, and with a calorie count of just 286 for the entire sandwich, you really are. However, there’s so much mizuna that in your first bite, you’re likely to not even notice the tuna. The wasabi mayonnaise is there to add some variety though, with a creamy yet spicy flavor that makes the first mouthful resemble a handheld salad.

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Things start to get sashimi-style soon, though. Having most of the tuna packed towards the center means a decidedly different flavor profile between the first and second bites. It’s not just the taste that changes, either, as the sashimi provides a lot more moisture than the mizuna, even with the wasabi mayonnaise helping out the veggies.

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On the plus side, the shift in flavor and moistness makes eating the sashimi bagel almost feel like a multi-course meal. Still, since there’s only a modest amount of wasabi mayonnaise mixed in with the mizuna, as you move from one end to the center and then on through to the other side, it means you’re going from dry to moist to back to dry again.

If that ending doesn’t sound like your preferred way to finish a meal, you might find yourself hoping for a little extra moisture at the tail end. I suppose you could go to the fridge, grab a jar of mayo, and add a little to supplement what’s already there, but that seems like it would just dilute the wasabi flavor and run contrary to the bagel’s Japanese influences.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, where the restaurant Philippe’s has been serving up delicious French dip sandwiches for over a hundred years, I’m no stranger to the benefits of dunking an already assembled sandwich in a bit of extra sauce. Instead of au jus, though, a mixture of wasabi and soy sauce seemed more appropriate.

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So in the end, while the tuna sashimi bagel is just fine on its own, it’s even better if you turn it into a Japanese dip.

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Cupcake wrapper-like Nori Cups!

 

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Fashioned for bento, those often intricate and colorful homemade Japanese lunches, these “Ready-to-eat Nori Cups” make for a clever way to pack your lunch.

Normally, the wrappers used to keep flavors separate within bento boxes are made from paper or plastic. These edible seaweed cupcake wrappers keep waste to a minimum, acting as both a container for various foods and a tasty post-lunch snack.

 

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Foodbeast:

 

According to RocketNews24, the packages contain 56 cups and include small rectangular shapes, plus a dozen more small, medium and floral designs.

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You can fill them with everything from cut up veggies to onigiri rice balls (below):

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While we’re a bit iffy on the thought of making actual cupcakes with these seaweed wrappers, we wouldn’t be opposed to some type of savory cake combo. Swoop them here for your next (dessert) lunch.

 

Check out this link:

Cupcake wrapper-like Nori Cups!

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Why you should eat wasabi with your sushi – the secrets behind 10 Japanese food pairings

 

RocketNews 24: 

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Traditions are taken very seriously in Japan, and one of the most noticeable examples is Japanese food. Certain foods and seasonings are always paired together, and while it may be tempting to dismiss this as just another example of the cultural homogeneity of an island nation, in several cases there are legitimate health benefits to these standard combinations.

Following are 10 culinary collaborations that won’t just fill you up and satisfy your taste buds, but leave you a little healthier, too:

Sushi and wasabi

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Let’s start with one of the most iconic teams in Japanese cuisine, sushi and the fiery paste that is wasabi.

Ordinarily, diners get a double punch of wasabi with each piece of sushi, as a dab of the condiment is placed in the rice, which is then dipped into a mixture of soy sauce blended with yet another dollop of wasabi. Although purists can’t imagine eating raw fish without it, some more casual sushi fans can’t handle the heat, and ask the chef to make their orderssabi nuki, or without wasabi.

But you’re actually missing out on a number of benefits if you’re passing on the wasabi, which helps to soften the smell of the fish, as well as drawing out more of its flavor. More importantly, wasabi is effective in suppressing microbes and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. So if you’re worried about eating your food raw, bear with the spiciness of the wasabi. It’s got a job to do.

Miso soup and seaweed

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Almost as ubiquitous as sushi and wasabi is the combination of miso soup with seaweed. Given its flimsy texture and near total lack of flavor, you’d be forgiven for assuming the seaweed isn’t there for anything other than aesthetic purposes.

It turns out, though, that seaweed helps compensate for one of the only health drawbacks to miso soup: its high sodium content. Nutrients in seaweed help to reduce both blood pressure and sodium levels in the body.

Rice balls and laver

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While we’re on the subject of plants from the ocean, what about the type of seaweed called laver that’s used to wrap onigiri, or rice balls?

At first this seems like something done strictly for the sake of convenience. You eat onigiri with your hands (nigiru is the Japanese word for “grab”), so if you don’t want to get rice all over them, you need some kind of covering. Onigiri predate plastic though, and the rice would stick to paper, depriving you of a few morsels when you unwrapped one. A thin strip of dried laver just seems like a natural, edible solution.

While that’s true, the laver also provides a huge nutritional benefit. Rice balls, by their nature, are almost entirely carbohydrates. In order to convert those carbs into energy, the body needs vitamin B, which laver is packed with. Conveniently, the quantity of vitamins in the B group necessary for one onigiri’s worth of carbohydrates is almost exactly equal to that contained in the amount of laver it takes to wrap one.

Raw tuna and yam

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Seafood makes up a large part of the Japanese diet, with tuna being one of the nation’s favorite fish. Raw tuna is often served with grated yam, which adds a little variety to its visual presentation (and also makes for a more economical meal than trying to fill up completely on pricey sashimi-grade fish).

The stickiness of Japanese yam takes some getting used to, and not even everyone born and raised in the country cares for it. The reason for its polarizing texture, though is the protein mucin, which helps the body to absorb the other proteins which tuna is rich in.

Saury and grated daikon radish

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Saury is another commonly eaten saltwater fish in Japan, which is almost always accompanied by grated daikon radish.

The saury is a small, slender fish, and since it’s usually grilled, you tend to end up with a lot of char on the skin. In general, the skin of fish are eaten in Japan, both for their flavor and their nutrients. However, that char isn’t exactly the healthiest thing, as it contains carcinogens. The grated daikon, usually mixed with a bit of soy sauce, helps to purge those carcinogens from the body.

Tofu and bonito flakes

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Saury and grated daikon is a decidedly old-school combo. They often appear as part of a traditional Japanese meal that involves several side dishes, one of which is likely to be tofu topped with bonito flakes.

Like the laver in miso soup, this again seems like a cosmetic choice at first. But while tofu has a plethora of amino acids, one that it’s decidedly lacking in is methionine. Methionine is essential for maintaining hair color as you age, as well as numerous other things we’re too vain and unintelligent to understand or care about. Thankfully, dried bonito is packed with the stuff, making it the prefect finishing touch for this amino acid cocktail.

Freshwater eel and sansho

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All of this talk of dainty health foods is making us hungry, so let’s move on to heartier fare, like unagi, or freshwater eel.

Unagi is usually butterflied, slathered with sauce, grilled, then topped with a dash of the slightly bitter, pepper-like powdered seasoning sansho. Aside from giving the unagi a little color, sansho helps cut down on the eel’s smell, and the condiment is also said to warm the digestive organs and help in breaking down the oils of the unagi, both of which aid in digestion.

Pork cutlet and cabbage

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But if you’re really hungry, nothing will fill you up quite like tonkatsu, or pork cutletTonkatsu always comes with a pile of shredded cabbage, which we assumed was simply the closest someone ordering a hunk of deep-fried pig could come to eating a salad.

Once again, though, the cabbage has a vital role to play. The vegetable is rich in vitamin U (something we honestly didn’t know existed), which helps prevent gastric hyperacidity. In other words, that cabbage will keep you from getting a tummy ache. There are limits to what even cabbage can do, though, so don’t assume you can chow down on a second cutlet with no ill effects as long as you finish the cabbage served with it.

Pork curry and pickled shallots

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Still hungry? Then how about some curry. At just about any curry restaurant in Japan, you’ll find a jar of pickled shallots on the table, from which diners can take as much as they want. On the surface, this may seem like some ill-thought out method to improve your breath, reasoning that the combined negative effects of curry, onions, and the pickling process will somehow wrap the scale back around and make your breath smell fresh and clean again.

The bad news is that no matter how many pickled shallots (called rakkyo in Japanese) you put away, you’re still going to need a breath mint or four. The good news is that those shallots have plenty of allysine, an amino acid that promotes absorption of the vitamin B1 in pork.

Beer and edamame

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Last, and by no means least, one of our favorite pairings in Japan: ice-cold beer and a bowl of edamame, or soybeans.

Edamame are lightly salted and served in the shell. Aside from the fun of popping them directly into your mouth, they’re a much lower calorie beer companion than peanuts or potato chips. Best of all, edamame contain methionine, like the bonito flakes mentioned above, plus vitamins B1 and C, which together help the liver in processing alcohol.

Of course, you could sidestep the whole problem of having to process alcohol by simply not consuming it in the first place. You could easily make the argument that pairing edamame with beer isn’t any better than edamame and tea, or edamame and juice.

And now, with a rebuttal, is beer.

Check out this link:

Why you should eat wasabi with your sushi – the secrets behind 10 Japanese food pairings

Source: Naver Matome

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Panjin Red Beach in China

 

The Red Beach is located in the Liaohe River Delta, about 30 kilometer southwest of Panjin City in China. The beach gets its name from its appearance, which is caused by a type of sea weed that flourishes in the saline-alkali soil. The weed that start growing during April or May remains green during the summer. In autumn, this weed turns flaming red, and the beach looks as if it was covered by an infinite red carpet that creates a rare red sea landscape. Most of the Red Beach is a nature reserve and closed to the public. Only a small, remote, section is open for tourists.

Check out this link:

Panjin Red Beach in China

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