In September last year, I posted an entry about a grapelike seaweed commonly harvested in Philippine waters. It is eaten fresh and a popular accompaniment to fried or grilled seafood in coastal areas. That entry was among those that were lost when my database went berserk in December. However, I still have the original photo. I also distinctly remember that readers said the seaweed was called lato or ar-arusip. Below is the photo in the lost lato entry. I just added chopped onions and tomatoes and served it with crispy fried hito (catfish).
Yesterday, I was in the wet market and decided to buy lato again. We were having fried hito for lunch and lato is just so wonderful with fried fish. This time, I decided to try another variety of lato–the ones with larger grapelike structures.
If the hues appear different, the earlier photo was taken at night, without flash. The photo below was taken at lunchtime, also without flash. The difference that natural light can make, huh?
One of the comments in the lost lato entry was about adding kalamansi to the lato. Dean Alfar, on the other hand, has memories of his parents dipping lato in a mixture of crushed garlic and spicy vinegar. Apparently, adding something sour to the lato was something traditional–I wanted to try it. Since I am not a vinegar person, I decided to go with kalamansi. I’ll tell you what my mistake was–you might want not to repeat it.
Make the dipping sauce (dressing) separately and DO NOT pour it over the lato. The fragile thing gets dehydrated so fast on contact with something sour. Shucks, within one minute, my lato almost disappeared into the onions and tomatoes. They looked more like wilted leaves than small grapes. I had to mix a fresh batch with onions and tomatoes to take the photo above. And to eat, too, because the lato in the earlier batch was almost invisible. So, it’s best to serve the dressing or dipping sauce on the side. Dip a bunch of lato into it or add a teaspoonful or so in the portion that you are about to put it your mouth. Keep the kalamansi or vinegar away from the lato until then.
The dressing I used yesterday was a mixture of light soy sauce, kalamansi juice and a little sugar. They blended wonderfully with the seaweed.