I came across yet another seaweed that piqued my interest. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or tried and my inner Indiana Jones was calling. After a lengthy conversation with my seaweed supplier I was convinced it was time to jump in and give lumi a try. The lumi itself is a unique food with the texture of whiskery yarn and smells strong of brine and the sea. When cooked it dissolves into a gelatinous slime which I realize sounds totally unappetizing, but combine that seaweed slime with coconut milk, onions and ginger and you have a traditional dish to die for!
I met with my good friend Sala to help me on my seaweed adventure. Once the lumi was thoroughly rinsed I peeled and grated ginger & Sala opened, more like sawed open, a large can of tuna. Most locals I have encountered find kitchen gadgets pointless. Cans are opened by stabbing it with a moderately large knife-saw away and there you have it…can opened. I gave my friend a can opener to use once and given the blank look on his face I quickly realized he had no idea how to use it. Such a beautiful thing to share culture through can openers.
We followed the recipe that Sala knew by heart and once she was satisfied the lumi was solid enough we sat down and cut a small triangular slice. Its texture was silky smooth, moist and a semi solid custard. The flavor of the tuna was pronounced and the seaweed itself never lost its signature taste of sea salt and brine.
A screaming success, I ate it for three days! This will be on regular rotation of my favorite traditional Fijian meals.
1-$2 FJD heap lumi (about 4 cups)
½ large onion, sliced thin
1 -2 inch thumb ginger, peeled and grated
2 coconuts worth coconut milk (rung twice) or about 3 1/2 cups canned
2 tsp sea salt
1 tin of tuna in water, drained (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
½ inch thumb ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp hot chilis, chopped
To prepare the seaweed you must thoroughly clean it first. Pull up thin handfuls and inspect it for other kinds of seaweed, small pieces of coral or dirt. This must be done carefully and slowly. Remove any unwanted debris and place in a colander. Let water run through it and move it around so all parts are rinsed by the water. Once sufficiently rinsed squeeze it dry & let it sit to strain further in the colander.
In a large stock pot bring the coconut milk to a boil over medium high heat. Once simmering add onions, ginger (and tuna is using), stir to combine. Slowly add lumi one handful at a time, stirring until all lumi has been added. Stir constantly over medium high heat until the lumi is totally dissolved and when the spoon is lifted it is no longer stringy and is a thick consistency.
At this stage pour the mixture into a shallow 13 x 9 casserole dish or a shallow dish of a similar size. If you use a smaller dish it will be thicker which is fine, however it will take longer to cool and become solid. Let the lumi cool at room temperature uncovered for at least 30 -45 minutes. If you are in a hurry you can place it in the refrigerator to speed this process up. The lumi is completely set once you can cut it with a knife through it and it will no longer run. It should be the texture of thick custard.
Squeeze the lemon juice in a small shallow dish and add the grated ginger and chilies. Stir to combine. Cut lumi into squares or triangles and serve with the lemon juice mixture for dipping. Serve with boiled cassava.
This may be served cool or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.