Taking Tofu Up a Notch

Tofu is the Meryl Streep of the food world.  I love Meryl Streep so this is not an insult at all.  Meryl’s brilliance is her ability to lose herself in any role.  I remember watching her as Julia Child in the movie Julie & Julia and there were moments when my mind would shift back and forth – “It’s Meryl on the screen as Julia Child, no it’s really Julia Child, no it’s Meryl…”  Tofu is just like Meryl in the way it can completely take on the flavours that are added to it.  I have grilled tofu and served it with a satay sauce, put it in a broccoli cheese dip, added it to lasagna, and all to great success.

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East Meets West Sandwich

My idea of an extreme mash up would be, Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey) at the dining table suspiciously eyeing a Vietnamese Sandwich on a plate before her, in her peevish upper-crust British accent, “You can’t be serious!  Am I expected to pick this up with my HANDS, like a scullery maid, picking up a scrub brush?”

Thank goodness I am not a member of aristocracy because I have no prejudices against eating food with my hands.  Sandwiches are not something I eat a lot of, perhaps because of the bad press they have gotten ie, Wheat Belly, Hi Carbs, Gluten.  But there are times when nothing satisfies like a sandwich, especially when it is a Vietnamese sandwich called the Banh Mi.

East Meets West 4 Kake2Kale

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Is it Japanese Lasagna or Italian Sushi?

The first lasagna I ever had was made from the generosity of a stranger.  This was shortly after we emigrated from Hong Kong and Mom was shopping at Safeway.  She returned home with a handwritten lasagna recipe given to her by another grocery shopper.  That night Mom made it, much to everyone’s delight.  She shared how this stranger took the time to write out the recipe then escorted her around the store to choose the ingredients. At that time, I thought of how Canada was a wonderful land and that Canadians were genuinely kind. It was probably a very insignificant act for the stranger, but to my family, we tasted the deliciousness of generosity that night.

As that stranger knew, lasagna is one of those fail proof dishes that even a first timer can’t ruin. I am almost positive that you could sneak in lawn clippings and coffee grounds and no one would be the wiser.  Don’t worry; this week’s original recipe doesn’t include any lawn clippings or coffee.

Seaweed Lasagna Roll 1 Kake2Kale
One day, {Kale} mentioned that she had some seaweed in her pantry and asked if I could do something with it.  It was actually giant kelp and on the back of the package was a recipe for seaweed lasagna.  But what a disappointment! It was basically a regular lasagna recipe that just exchanged the noodles for seaweed.  Instead, I thought about my favourite way to eat seaweed… SUSHI!  What could be more crowd pleasing than a California roll? So, is my new seaweed creation considered Italian sushi or Japanese lasagna?  Either way, {Kale} and I enjoyed the finished product very much.

Before you jump into making this recipe, there’s a caveat.  Remember those stand-up menus in sushi restaurants that had the various types of sushi listed and some were labeled “challenging”?  I suppose this recipe could be considered “challenging” if you make it as is.  The challenging ingredient is the giant kelp because it is quite chewy and has a strong “sea” taste.  So if you’d like to try the recipe but are not sure if you want to go for the gusto, then I’d suggest using nori.  I’ve put an addendum to the recipe.  Nori is the seaweed that is commonly used to make sushi. It is milder, and lighter.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Jo who left us much too young from her battle with cancer.  Jo was a master herbalist whose life was very much in tune with nature.  I loved it when she shared her knowledge and the fruits of her labour with me.  She had been working on a precedent setting municipal vegetable garden.  Every summer she would collect kelp and drape it all over her apartment to dry and then bundle it up in silk pouches to be sold at craft fairs as bath detoxifiers. She took the time to find just the right colour of silk and handpicked each strand of kelp.  I always felt refreshed after one of her seaweed baths. In case this inspires you to try this, you can reuse the pouches up to 10 times and just dry them afterwards.

Jo would have been tickled by my sushi inspired lasagna, not only because of the kelp but for the Asian twist that I added.  Jo was adventurous in many ways and trying new foods was definitely one of them.  Though she was of British stock, she joked about having Asian blood in her because she loved foods like congee, dumplings, tofu.  This one’s for you beautiful Jo!

Seaweed Lasagna Roll 2 Kake2Kale

Superfoods in this Recipe:
Seaweed:  Contains many nutrients and is especially high in iron and iodine. Iodine can help with supporting a sluggish thyroid. Also contains minerals that are important for strong bones.
Tofu:  Soy has had some bad press, but I always say, everything in moderation.  When I lived in Hong Kong as a child, I would have a chilled bottle of soymilk (sold like cola) as a weekly treat.  But here, it becomes a replacement for dairy milk, and is consumed everyday.    Tofu is high in protein, calcium has lots of soy isoflavones, that may decrease bone loss due to menopause.
Avocado:  Contains high amount of potassium, vitamins K, B complex, C and E. Rich source of monosaturated fat which is a good fat, can help with lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of strokes.
Crab:  High in protein and minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and copper, as well as Omega 3’s.  It is also abundant in selenium, which is an antioxidant and plays a role in thyroid health.

California Roll Lasagna serves 4


  • 8 lasagna noodles (may replace with Gluten Free noodles)
  • 8 sheets giant kelp*
  • 250 gm medium firm tofu
  • 1 large avocado
  • 120 gm crabmeat
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup Bechamel sauce**


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Cut 8 strips of tin foil to approximate the width and length of the noodles.
  • Boil the noodles according to the instructions on the box.
  • While noodles are boiling, blend the tofu, avocado, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender.  Stir in the crab meat once it is blended.
  • When the noodles still have 2 minutes left to cook, add the kelp.
  • Drain the noodles and kelp.
  • Lay the tin foil out then lay a strip of kelp, then a lasagne noodle, spread with a thick layer of the tofu crab mixture.  Then roll up and put in a casserole dish.
  • Continue until all eight are rolled.  Top each with some béchamel sauce.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.  Unwrap the rolls and serve topped with more béchamel sauce and sprinkle of parsley.

*Nori version
Take 3 sheets of nori and cut each sheet into 3 long strips, you will have one leftover.  Boil the noodles, drain.  Then lay out the noodles onto the foil, place a strip of dry nori onto the noodles and spread the tofu mixture on top.  Carry on as above.

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1T. butter
  • 1 T. flour (or GF flour)
  • 1 cup milk (non-dairy is fine)
  • Salt and pepper


  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
  • Add the flour, stirring constantly, letting the flour cook for about 2 minutes until it gets a nice brown colour.
  • Add the milk, stir constantly until the sauce thickens, and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to your taste.

This recipe is perfect for tweaking. If you want you can add more crab or avocado, some herbs, or if you prefer, to use cream cheese instead of tofu.  Make this recipe your own and let me know how it goes.

Eat healthy, live great! {Kake}

Seaweed Lasagna Roll 3 Kake2Kale