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Tens of millions of Americans are extremely fond of bacon. For the health-conscious, dulse strips offer a palatable vegan alternative.

When Americans think of hearty breakfasts, they usually don't think of seaweed, but a hearty Irish breakfast includes dulse. Americans are discovering that this tasty and nutritious Irish breakfast food can take the place of bacon.

What Is Dulse?

Dulse, which rhymes with "pulse," is a cold water red seaweed. It's in the same family as the seaweeds used to make nori sheets and kelp salads. Also known as creathnach or dillisk, this red algae grows along the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Fresh dulse resembles red lettuce.

Dulse has been a staple vegetable in Ireland, Iceland, and Wales for over a thousand years. It contains all the trace minerals needed in human nutrition and generous amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids, and is also a good source of fiber and protein. Dulse is harvested at low tide from rocky shores during late summer and early fall. Unless you know someone who harvests dulse, you probably won't be able to get it fresh (the raw dulse in stores is frozen and thawed out before it is offered in the seafood section), but dried pulse is available in most larger grocery stores. Dulse can be eaten straight from the ocean, or dried into flakes to be added to soups, pan-fried to make chips, baked with cheese, or fried to make "bacon."

Where Did Someone Get the Idea of Making Seaweed Into "Bacon"?

Many American health food fans eat dried dulse straight from the bag. It has an intensely salty, smoky, fresh-from-the-ocean flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture. Heating dulse with a little oil in a frying pan changes its flavor and texture. The seaweed flavor goes away, and the salty and smoky flavors predominate. The dulse gets crispy, like bacon, and its red hues darken to a bacon brown.

There's Really No Bacon Substitute

To be honest, no bacon connoisseur is ever going to give up real smoked pork bacon for fried dulse strips, but they are nonetheless a great accompaniment to scrambled eggs or savory cereals or potatoes. Dulse isn't something you eat instead of bacon, at least not on a long-term basis, but it is a food you can eat occasionally in addition to bacon for an interesting change of pace. Cholesterol-free even when it is pan-fried in vegetable oil, dulse lowers cholesterol (by the blocking action of its fibers) rather than raising it. Also, there are no preservatives.

How Do You Prepare Dulse for Breakfast?

It doesn't take a lot of dulse to make a generous serving of dulse "bacon."  Heat a skillet to which you add one or two tablespoons (15-30 ml) of a neutral tasting oil. Take two handfuls, or about 20 grams (3/4 of an ounce), of dulse out of its package. Pull the leaves apart so they spread across the pan flat. Cook on medium heat for about three minutes or until the leaves begin to get crispy. Remove the dulse and place on a paper towel. Add a little more oil or butter to the pan and scramble eggs. Serve the eggs as desired with dulse bacon on the side.

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