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 :)