Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ensaladang Lato (Seaweed Salad)

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence…at least that is what everyone says. I must admit, I have been guilty of this too, more often than I am willing to say. You only have to peek into my Twitter feed* to see me trying to make deals with the Western world to “send me some snow” in exchange for the sunshine I am so blessed with, but which can also be unrelentingly scorching.

So I have decided to stop and appreciate what is naturally mine on this little group of islands: brilliant beaches, gorgeous sunny days, fabulous produce, the luxury of tank tops and flip-flops all year round. As if reading my good-intentioned thoughts, today arrived charmingly sunny yet breezy – all sun-kissed blue sky and the gentle caress of the wind. The weather dreams are made of.

To celebrate the advent of sunny days (chasing the clouds away) I am posting another local salad. I’ve mentioned before, I love my native Filipino salads and I hope to share some here. They are uncomplicated and fresh, with piquant personalities…and they go perfectly with our weather!

Ensaladang Lato (Seaweed Salad)
  • 250 grams lato (seaweed)
  • 2 native tomatoes, seeds removed and sliced into thin wedges
  • 5 small/young native onions (like shallots), peeled and sliced thinly

- Clean your lato very gently so as not to pop the bulbs.
- Arrange on a plate with tomatoes and onions.
- Serve with dressing (see below) on the side.

A note on the dressing: The choices for dressing this salad are relatively simple. You can choose to have it with just some vinegar or soy sauce or a combination of both. Some Filipino cookbooks prescribe a vinaigrette of olive oil, vinegar, pepper, and salt. We like a mix of vinegar with just a smidgen of soy sauce and freshly cracked black pepper. Easy on the salt because the lato is already naturally salty. What’s important is to have the dressing on the side as the vinegar will make the lato mushy. You can either dress your salad right before you eat it, or even better, dip the lato directly into the dressing as you eat.

Lato is a bright green seaweed, consisting of little bulbs, that I was introduced to by C’s family in Zamboanga. According to his godmother, it cannot grow in water that is not clean, so you know that where lato grows, the sea is clean. When I visited, I ate it straight out of the sea! What makes it delicious is the combination of the feel of the bulbs popping in your mouth, and the salty liquid they release when they do.

This is another great example of a Filipino salad – simple elements combined with minimal fuss, letting the delicious flavors shine through. Not only is it fitting for this weather, it gets on famously with summer food like grilled fish.

So now I sit at my desk with the windows open, relishing the breeze and the good food that I plan to make with the coming summer’s bounty, happy in the belief that, at this moment at least, the grass in greener right here.

*Speaking of Twitter: I’ve been on it for some time now but I realize I haven’t formally shared this fact over here (although I do have my Twitter feed on my right sidebar…yup, right over there). Aside from whiny weather complaints (which I’m trying to balance now with being thankful I never have to freeze my tush off), I also share a lot of my meals, ingredients, and ideas there. Let’s face it, what makes it on the blog are, more often than not, dishes that already have some semblance of a recipe. This leaves a lot out – throw-together meals, experimental dishes, new ingredients I want to try out, market trips, random ideas. All that, and more, I try to capture in the charming immediacy that is Twitter. And it’s not just words (of 140 characters only please!). I use this nifty thing to share images from my everydays as well. Not that either the words or the images are ground-breaking exciting. But they’re there…just in case you want to take a peek :)


Katie said...

I've never eaten seaweed - of any type, but this looks really fun and I love the idea that it only grows in clean water. Alas, being in the middle of cow country, I don't see the chance anytime soon. I'll send you some rain if you send some sunshine!

RONE said...

I've only had this a couple of times. Sooooo yum. Where do you buy it?

Mom-Friday said...

it's been ages since i've have lato salad! and like Rone, wondering where we can buy this?
Tweet-tweet some more! :)

Paula said...

I`ve never eaten salad with such ingredients but I`d really like to try this one day. Thanks for sharing with this recipe! This salad looks totally uncanny for me and this`s why I like this :)

stargazer said...

I L-O-V-E lato and this salad is the one mainstay that I insist on having with my inihaw na bangus. This is the stuff of my childhood - Sunday lunch of fish my dad grills and the salad my mom prepares, all eaten from banana leaves taken from our backyard.

In our home, we dress this with: vinegar, a splash of bagoong isda (either from Pangasinan or Balayan, Batangas), and a bit of cracked black pepper.

A delicious taste of the sea!

Miri Leigh said...

What a unique salad! I can't wait to try this out!

Midge said...

Lato salad is a tasty, healthy, and unusually pretty alternative for any number of side dishes - especially if you're having grilled seafood for dinner~!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Katie! It is really interesting and delicious! This one pops in your mouth just like caviar :) Do you know when it gets so hot here I actually welcome the rain because it cools everything down…so I may just take you up on that!

Hi Rone! Salcedo market, at the bigger fish stall :)

Hi Mom-Friday! At the big fish stall at Salcedo Market…come early so it’s still nice :)

Hi Paula! Glad this piqued your interest!

Hi Stargazer! It’s the best with grilled fish no? :) Bagoong Balayan and vinegar sounds like a great way to dress this salad…thanks for the tip!

Hi Miri! Hope you get to try it :)

Hi Midge! The best with grilled seafood! :) And yes, forgot all about how healthy it is!

Paz said...

Yum! I'd love to try this definitely. Congrats on you twitter adventures. ;-)

chef_d said...

Wow yum...we call this ar-arosep in ilocano. I love their briny taste and they almost don't need any dressing :)

Joanie said...

This a very Ilocano dish. I haven't eaten this for ages. Makes me so hungry seeing this post :)

Anne said...

I used to eat this when I was still young, love this with bagoong and grilled fish :)

JMom said...

I love that seaweed! In the Ilocos region, we call it ararusep and I'm happy with just that and some sweet tomatoes. It provides its own dressing :)

Mary said...

This salad has my attention. I like things that are out of the ordinary and where I live this is out of the ordinary :-). I'm relatively new to your blog and don't comment often. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy the food and recipes you feature here. You keep me coming back for more. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Maria said...

I'm a huge fan of seaweed so this is right up my alley!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Paz! It is really good…so fresh and tastes of the sea :)

Hi Chef D! it too! You are right that they hardly need and dressing at all!

Hi Joanie! Hope you can find this! They eat this in Zamboanga too…can you imagine? Opposite ends!

Hi Anne! Yes, it is perfect with grilled fish :)

Hi Jmom! So true – hardly needs to be seasoned…although I do like it with some vinegar :)

Hi Mary! Thanks for leaving such a sweet comment! I’m glad to hear you enjoy my blog :) This (seaweed salad) is definitely one of the things I love about living where I do :)

Hi Maria! Glad to hear that! :)


"grass is greener on the other side" mindset is always the case, but yeah all we need is to appreciate what we have... i'm grateful that i live in san diego, where the weather is always and almost perfect.. :)
this is a refreshing salad. I never had this while I was there in the Philippines. I wonder if it's the same seaweed that we have here... if that's the case, I love it... we put a little sugar and sesame oil for a hint of "asian" dressing.

Gattina Cheung said...

Jo, for sure your grass is ever-green! This seaweed looks AMASING! Would that "leaves" pop when we chew?

Junglefrog said...

Ooo that is just not fair talking of sunshine and beaches and basically the stuff we don't even really get in summer! lol... Your seaweed salad looks totally amazing!

Shalum said...


Anh said...

omg the seaweed looks so vibrant!

Stepford Mum said...

Lee and his friends eat this underwater while diving, heehee :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Malou! Yes, definitely better to be grateful for what one has…there is beauty and magic everywhere, we just have to open our eyes! When we are busy looking over the fence sometimes we miss the great things that are nearby :) That Asian style dressing sounds perfect…I will try that next time!

Hi Gattina! Yes! They do pop when you chew them :) Thrifty “caviar” ;)

Hi Junglefrog! I am sure you also get a lot of amazing stuff that don’t even cross our shores! :)

Hi Shalum! That is was :)

Hi Anh! That is also one of the things I love about it :)

Hi Iyor! How fun! Tiff and I were just talking about diving…I’m afraid I’ll never be brave enough!

heidi said...

are those little green bubble like stuff a kind of seaweed? (pardon my ignorance).

I wonder were can i find that here in Macau, would love to give a try to this ensaladang!

SteamyKitchen said...

Those little green balls!!! Now it's my turn to "envy" your local ingredients ;-) xoxo

WizzyTheStick said...

I have never thought to eat seaweed this way. Now the next time I go to the beach I'm gonna look a little more carefully ....

ChichaJo said...

Hi Heidi! Yes, they are a type of seaweed :) Very yummy and also very healthy!

Hi Jaden! I guess we each have something to envy on either side of the fence ;)

Hi Wizzy! Heehee :) Over here it is commonly eaten this way, in a salad.