I had a craving for seaweed…and no I’m not pregnant. I like seaweed, it can be gummy and slimy true, but it can also taste like the sea and provide a sense of vitality. There are so many varieties of seaweed and I am a humble novice, but I have tried a few types in Fiji and I decided I would whip some up.
I was looking for seagrapes, in Fijian known as nama. You can only get it on Saturday at our market because the village women harvest it from the sea the day before or early in the morning then bring it in to us “city” folk. There is only one place you can find it too, outside, where all of the Fijian women have their make-shift wooden tables lined up with their native foods fresh or prepared, decorated with chilies and lemon.
This particular kind of seaweed is most commonly found in the Philippines; however it is in full bloom in the waters of Fiji. It is said that some species of seagrapes can be toxic to fend off predatory fish & that the toxin can also affect humans. However, Fijians have been eating it a whole lot longer then Wikipedia has been writing about it so I’m not too concerned. It is also said to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties so I’m plating myself up a Fijian sized portion because after 3 weeks of rain my house is like 1 big mold spore and I could probably use some medicinal foods : )
This dish is a traditional recipe to the native Fijians. The seagrapes and tuna make sense together. The seagrapes are very briny and sea-like and the tuna is fishy, it’s a good match. The cucumber and lemon juice liven it up and the carrot adds just a touch of sweetness to sooth the heat of the chilie. The seagrapes are firm and tender and the texture is like caviar….each little bead pops & explodes in your mouth. I would suggest chilling it for at least an hour before serving it. It can be served chilled or at room temperature.
You can skip the tuna if you are vegan or veg and bonus, without the tuna this salad is 100% raw!! Another way the locals prepare it is to make homemade coconut milk and add that in addition to the lemon juice. You can add a few ounces of canned coconut milk if you wish, but I’m a purest & can never go back to the canned stuff again!
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1 handful cilantro, chopped rough
½ small cucumber, skin peeled and chopped
1-170g tin of tuna in oil, drained
4 tblsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 small chilies, chopped fine (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Soak the seagrapes in water for about 5 minutes then drain and rinse them in a colander extremely well. They can hold onto sand and will be very salty if you do not rinse them thoroughly. Look for little bits of coral as this is what it grows on and it would be no bueno for your teeth to chomp down on a bit of that.
Add onion through tuna and stir gently to combine. Dress with lemon juice and chilies if using add sea salt to taste and toss to coat. Store covered in the refrigerator for one hour before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.