What Are Those Seaweed Hairballs? Maesaengi!

Have you ever seen those hairy green wads at the supermarket and thought – what are those? Wonder no longer! They’re maesaengi (매생이) or fulvescens seaweed. And guess what? You’ve already tried it and probably love it. Maesaengi is dried and used to make sushi or kimbap wrappers and seaweed snacks. It’s the unprocessed form of kim.

While you’ve had it processed, you may not have ever tried it in its natural form. It’s just as delicious and full of even more nutrients. Maesaengi is truly one of the most underrated Korean cuisine treasures for many reasons and here I am to let you know more about it.

What’s it Like?


Well… first we should approach the obvious. Maesaengi doesn’t look very appetizing. In fact, it literally looks like a musty old green hairball. Some even say it looks like “mermaid hair” or like those hairballs we leave in the shower. But, as seen with kim, we know it has potential. 

Taste & Texture

However, raw maesaengi of course is not crunchy at all. It feels soft yet chewy in your mouth. It is delicate and dissolves in your mouth. As for the taste, it has a deep but still smooth sea flavor which adds a perfect touch to any soup. You can literally taste the sea in your mouth but not in a fishy way. Instead, it is refreshing. To me, maesaengi soups are just perfect.

Health Benefits

But the most special thing about maesaengi is not how good it tastes, but how healthy it is. Since it doesn’t have to be fried or roasted to taste good, it keeps all of its nutrients and health properties such as vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, proteins, etc. It is perfect to boost your immune system right before the cold winter starts.

If those aren’t enough reasons to run to the nearest Korean market and order some maesaengi, there is, even more, you should know about this Korean ingredient.

Maesaengi was actually losing its popularity among Koreans. However, there have recently been many famous chefs who have shown interest in it again. During the past few years, maesaengi has appeared in multiple TV shows. It can now be found as a popular dish in many restaurants. Don’t forget to look up your favorite idol having some maesaengi!

Maesaengi as an Ingredient

Maesaengi Kalguksu

I personally recommend Maesaengi Kalguksu (knife noodles). Which is a warm noodle soup with seaweed spread throughout it. It’s refreshing and healthy. There are endless ways that Maesaengi can be used as an ingredient.


One really delicious way to use maesaengi at home is to make an omlette with it. It dosen’t require any other ingredients except an egg. Of course, you can add other seasonings if you like. However, the seaweed is packed full of flavor and is naturally salted.


One of the most traditional ways you can eat this type of seaweed is as a pancake, or jeon. This type of jeon is extra chewy. The sea vegetable pairs amazingly with oysters, mucles, and other shellfish. So, you will frequently see them incorporated into this jeon. It is a great side dish to accompany a few shots of soju on a seaside weekend escape.


That’s right, Seaweed pasta! In Korea it is not uncommon to see western dishes be reimagined using traditional ingredients, and maesaengi is no exception. In addition to pasta, you can also find the sea vegetable incorporated into pizza, bread, and even cookies.

Do you enjoy deep diving into Korean ingredients? Click Here to learn everything there is to know about sweet potatoes!