seaweed salad by Hetty McKinnon

Growing up between two cultures — Australian and Chinese — it took me a long time to understand the person I saw staring back at me in the mirror…

But when I started cooking and, specifically making salad, my own reflection suddenly made much more sense. Food became a gateway for me to understand my own heritage, while also offering a window into other cultures and their unique histories. Making salad with my mum brought us closer together; with cooking as our common ground, I felt like we were finally on the same side, that the disparate stories of our intertwined lives were finally being told on the same page.

Salad was not a part of my diet when I was a child, but it is the dish that has given me life. Even today, nothing feels more natural than making a salad. In many ways, I equate salad making to living, to thriving, to being. In discovering flavor and experimenting with ingredients I have become a more compassionate person, more worldly, better equipped to ask questions and to seek answers.

This salad, from my book To Asia With Love, is an easy and delicious way to add a little more seaweed to your diet, paired with fresh, crispy greens and a punchy sesame dressing. Seaweed is the vegetable I’m trying to incorporate more of into our family diet — it’s one of the world’s most nutrient-rich and sustainable foods. I like to use kelp (kombu) in this salad, but it’s also good with wakame or hijiki. Dried seaweed can be found at many supermarkets, healthfood stores, Asian grocers or online.

Hetty McKinnon

Seaweed Lettuce Salad
Serves 2-4
Vegan and Gluten-Free


5 x 9-inch piece of kelp (kombu), about ¾ ounce, soaked in warm water for 15–20 minutes
1 head of lettuce (red oak or butter), leaves separated, washed and dried thoroughly
1 avocado, sliced or cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 scallion, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

Spicy Sesame Dressing

1 garlic clove, grated
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red chile flakes) or 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the seaweed and boil for 12–15 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain. When cool enough to handle, tear or slice the kelp into bite-sized pieces.

For the spicy sesame dressing, mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Combine the seaweed, lettuce and avocado in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Season with sea salt and black pepper, top with the sesame seeds and scallion and serve immediately.

Thank you, Hetty!

P.S. Nine rules for better salads and a killer salad trick.

(Photo by Hetty McKinnon. This recipe and essay was reprinted from Hetty McKinnon’s new, stunning cookbook To Asia, With Love.)