Come On Mom, Not Seaweed Agaaaain….

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!

My seaweed supplier & guru of traditional Fijian cuisine.

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.

I'm REALLY excited about making this seaweed!

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.

The finished product ready to be dipped in a tangy sauce of lemon juice, ginger and chilies.

A screaming success, I ate it for three days!  This will be on regular rotation of my favorite traditional Fijian meals.

Lumi Vakalolo

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.

What Are You Having For Lunch? I’m Having Seaweed….

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.

Seagrapes fresh from the ocean.

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 : )

Seagrape salad fixin's.

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.

Traditional Fijian seagrape salad, enjoy!

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!

Cheers!

Seagrape salad

1kg seagrapes

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.