13 Apr2011

A Seaweed Farm…

by Marketman

Ask obvious questions. That’s one of the great things that this blog has taught me with respect to food. We all go about our daily lives without inquiring, without seeking, without really wanting to know more. It’s one thing to read that most commercial ice creams being so darned airy and the ingredient that helps companies do that is a form of carageenan or seaweed in a powdered form that helps trap in the air bubbles. Take a pint of good creamy (and more dense) ice cream and let it melt then weigh the liquid contents. Compare that to some highly advertised local brands and be shocked by the results… It’s another thing to be out and about on holiday and have a simple question lead to a fairly interesting learning experience. That’s what happened on a mid-morning banca ride from the island of Culion to Coron recently…

It was a stunning morning, with a gentle breeze, blue skies and an extremely calm sea. In our modest banca hired for private use, we passed hundreds of buoys which held up cultured oysters for pearl farming, which I wrote about years ago. We passed coves and beaches that we had seen several times before, and suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a fairly “littered” cove and asked Fredo, our bangkero, what that was all about. He kind of looked at me funny and said they were floating blobs of styrofoam, and I inquired further, and he said they were seaweed farms. About 500 meters away, I asked if we could double back and visit the “farm” and so we did…

Part of me was annoyed by the styrofoam blobs in the “pristine” waters, but on closer inspection, I realized they acted as floaters for a spiderweb of ropes on which guso seaweeds were “hanging out” while growing larger. I was stunned and amazed. How cool is that? I always assumed seaweeds grew out of reefs or the sea floor. Who would have thought you could farm them like the orchid equivalent in the sea?

I wrote about another type of seaweed, lato, from this area, and had asked several locals how they were gathered. They answered that those were hand collected from the wild, and “natives” would dive to get them. But now I want to actually see them collected so I know for certain… We got a small piece of guso floating near the “farm” for the photos in this post, and were happy to have taken the 10-15 minute diversion to learn something new. Mrs. MM and the Teen were with me and were probably rolling their eyes when I asked to double back to see this, but now they too know another (possibly trivial an irrelevant) food tidbit and so do all of you who didn’t otherwise know this. :)

To enjoy this type of seaweed, you need to blanch it briefly before dressing it with a snazzy local vinaigrette. See kinilaw na guso post here. And a third kind of seaweed, a more frilly kind, here. By the way, one of my favorite luxury splurges is a seaweed salad at Tsukiji in Makati, a smal bowl filled with several varieties of unusual seaweeds served chilled and dressed with a vinaigrette made with some sesame oil I think. It is disproportionately expensive, but like caviar or foie gras, a once a year or so indulgence… But considering what’s going into Japanese waters these days, I am not sure I will be indulging for a while, lest I start to glow as a result. :)



  1. emsy says:

    this is called agar-agar (or agal-agal) where i come from! and since it’s hardier, it travels better than lato. i remember my mom would make an agar salad at home to take to the beach and buy lato along the way to keep the sacs from bursting in transit. ah summer and beaches!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 9:50 am


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  3. Bubut says:

    i was able to taste this guso in Bohol and its a perfect pair to grilled fish.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 9:57 am

  4. Jenny says:

    top things i miss from davao are the fresh guso and lato! our lato in davao is small and quite different from the big ones i see here.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 10:07 am

  5. Clarissa says:

    this is where they make gulaman from, right? hmmmm. i wonder how it gets to that form, bar or powder.

    i just blogged about the difference in gulaman (agar-agar) and gelatin. besides their different sources, the only other difference i can make is that gelatin melted at our room temperature. :)

    Apr 13, 2011 | 10:47 am

  6. louinsanfran says:

    That’s a fantastic blue, blue green background in contrast to the plump, neutral colored seaweed.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 10:53 am

  7. jdawgg says:


    Do they also farm the other type of seaweed? Perhaps the one that looks like grapes?

    Apr 13, 2011 | 10:55 am

  8. Flying Fish says:

    Very interesting post. I just had seaweed salad a couple of days ago. Imported from Japan, unfortunately. Oh boy.

    Is lato the same as “arosep.”

    Apr 13, 2011 | 11:05 am

  9. Maria Isabel Rodrigo says:

    I super love your shots Mr. MM!!!! Your pics makes my mouth water but here I can almost smell the salty air and imagining having sun-kissed cheeks!!! Very nice!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 11:57 am

  10. Charisse says:

    Hi MM! In Zamboanga this is agar-agar. Prepared much like your kinilaw na guso post but with bubuk (brown, powdered condiment, maybe made from burned coconut not very sure) – very DELICIOUS! Makes you double your portions in food =)

    Apr 13, 2011 | 12:22 pm

  11. teth says:

    I remember my former officemate, marie from Sorsogon. She said when they make gulaman, they dont use the ones from groceries, instead they used the dried seaweed, like that.!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 1:22 pm

  12. Amicce says:

    Hi Mr. MM. Nice post .Seaweed is popular in La union. We make seaweed salad with bagoong isda , onion and tomatoes. Yum Yum…

    Apr 13, 2011 | 1:24 pm

  13. melissa says:

    very nice pictures!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 2:16 pm

  14. Sarah says:

    Amazing shots, MM! Palawan is gorgeous. I haven’t tasted this kind of seaweed yet, but I imagine it tastes like the sea.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 3:58 pm

  15. Junb says:

    Carageenan is every where in our food chain from fish ball to Beer and sodas. It is also use on shampoo and tooth paste. Philippines is the largest producer of Carageenan about 80% of the market.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 3:59 pm

  16. millet says:

    had lunch at a korean restaurant yesterday had a pleaseant discovery in one of the “banchan” (side dishes) that were served – dried seaweed that had been flash-fried. it was very crisp from the frying and from the salt and sugar crystals that studded it. very flavorful. i didn’t even get to ask what it’s called.

    the shorelines of western mindanao (zamboanga, jolo, tawi-tawi, basilan, palawan, etc.) are dotted with seaweed farms like this. am a bit bothered by the use of styrofoam, though..we all know the styro could break up into small pieces that could be ingested by turtles, fish and other creatures, and could cause their death.

    beautiful pictures, MM. in that first photo, the seaweed looks just about ready to jump out of the screen!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 4:12 pm

  17. jo says:

    Theirs is a lighter green version=) the one i knew and grew up eating with is the darker green one=) I love guso!

    Apr 13, 2011 | 5:54 pm

  18. Doddie from Korea says:


    I love seaweed salads, too. I love the pickled ones in the Japanese restos here.


    I love those crunchy seaweed too. They’re a dime a dozen here. Want me to send you some? I can pick up a couple of packs from the street market tomorrow.


    Apr 13, 2011 | 6:17 pm

  19. cumin says:

    MM, I know you don’t know Photoshop (can we use this as a verb?), but with anyone else I’d’ve thought these photos were enhanced. The sea and seaweeds look absolutely gorgeous!

    Has anyone recently been to Ka Lui’s in Puerto Princesa? Do you know whether they still serve diners a small bowl of seaweeds (guso and lato) as soon as they are seated?

    Apr 13, 2011 | 6:33 pm

  20. marilen says:

    Beautiful photos of a much loved delicacy! Thank you, MM, for insatiable curiosity and sharing it with armchair travelers like me. It is so good to see the ‘world’ through your loving eyes.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 7:47 pm

  21. Connie C says:

    Yes cumin, Ka Lui still does, where you go for the more plump and bigger lato which are are reserved for the restaurant sukis it seems, and doubling the price for the regular consumer if the vendor will even sell you some of their larger lot.

    Yes junb, carrageenan is everywhere including the deicing agent for those frozen planes sitting on the tarmac. And for those of us who pay attention to food additives and the reality that we cannot keep up with all the information we need to know, it is perhaps prudent to stay away from as much food additives, food stabilizers and processed foods in general. We often sacrifice health for taste and convenience.

    Even if the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) pronounce a food additive or ingredient safe for human consumption, most of the conclusions are based on animal studies, and difficult to extrapolate in the human condition. One is not surprised that there has been a decided increase in the incidence of cancers.

    High molecular carageenan is supposedly safe but the low molecules that they are eventually converted to in the gut can cause pathological alterations in the human breast tissue.” Consumption of Carrageenan and Other Water-soluble Polymers Used as Food Additives and Incidence of Mammary Carcinoma, J. K. Tobacman, R. B. Wallace, M. B. Zimmerman, Medical Hypothesis (2001), 56(5), 589-598″

    Caveat emptor.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 7:53 pm

  22. Footloose says:

    Does this warning apply to semi-external applications? Apparently, certain type of carageenan is a principal component now of some brands of personal lubricants with even further benefit on top of lubricity alone, it inhibits transmission of HIV and other STD pathogens. I know, I know, mind always in the gutter, but most times some of us are looking up at the stars.

    Apr 13, 2011 | 9:16 pm

  23. allen says:

    hi! a little off topic here..anybody knows where I can buy dill in Quezon City area? I love eating fish but I dont know where to look for dill..what do you call it in Filipino?

    Apr 13, 2011 | 11:23 pm

  24. Lava Bien says:

    Hell yeah! I almost always order my WAKAME salad when I go to my favorite sushi spots (yeah plural hehehe) and it’s good for you (they say). Not sure though if I had any at TSUKIJI @ Centuy Park (yeah they know them folks from Makati also – partners I guess)

    Apr 13, 2011 | 11:50 pm

  25. Connie C says:

    I don’t know, Footloose, but there are those who feel like them in the days of salvarsan 606 : “a night with Venus, forever with Mercury”.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 3:12 am

  26. Marketman says:

    Connie C and Footloose, hahaha is all I will type. Allen, I don’t think there is a name for dill in Filipino. Try Santis delicatessen or Rustans groceries for dill in QC. Cumin, no I don’t use photoshop, though I purchased it last year thinking I would but I find it mind boggling (or maybe I am just too old to figure it out), but I do use iphoto on my Mac and I can adjust shadows or colors a bit to enhance a photo. However, having said that, the sun light and natural colors in this are made for great photos without much effort. millet, one of the guys in the banca said it looked like the seaweed was alive and climbing over to attack the boat… :) jdawgg, I think the seagrapes are harvested wild, but then again, I thought guso were wild too…but not.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 5:53 am

  27. allen says:

    thanks MarketMan..I will try in Robinsons Ortigas later :)

    Apr 14, 2011 | 5:56 am

  28. astrid says:

    Great article! I’ve only heard of lato. I’ll make sure to try a seaweed salad next time i see one in a menu :)

    Apr 14, 2011 | 8:13 am

  29. cumin says:

    Thanks, Connie C. Chucking at your exchanges with Footloose.

    allen, for dill you could also try Ed, my suki at Centris Sunday market. Ed is based in Lipa ad usually carries several different kinds of herbs (dill, tarragon, basil, sage, parsley, coriander, mint, galangal) and lettuce and even edible flowers. Call 0916-5460196 to check what he’s bringing in this Sunday.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 8:13 am

  30. millet says:

    doddie from korea, many thanks for the offer, but wouldn’t want to bother you with sending them over. bring some instead when you come to davao ;-) i may be able to find it in the local korean groceries..what is it called?

    footloose, quite a jump there from gelatin desserts to “semi-external applications”, but that’s probably why i heard someone endorsing toothpaste as a lubricant, except that most toothpastes are therefore mint flavored and therefore cool and tingly. on the other hand, that could be a plus factor, you think so?

    sorry, MM. back to regular programming.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:48 am

  31. Footloose says:

    Minty toothpaste eh, I can only say coool. Next time you see people with Gleam in their faces, you can suspiciously assume they have been delving in something fishy.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 8:09 pm

  32. allen says:

    thanks a lot cumin! :) i’ll get in touch with Mr. Ed.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:22 pm

  33. Kasseopeia says:

    @Flying Fish: I think they are one and the same. What I grew up with as “lato” in CDO is what my father and his mom call ar-arosep in Pangasinan. Same with my mom and her mom in Abra province. While I see two varieties here in Manila – the darker green variety with smaller, tighter clusters of “grapes”, and the lighter green one with larger orbs with a looser structure – I believe both are calles lato or ar-arosep. I find that I prefer the brine-y flavor of the smaller one – or maybe it’s because it’s my childhood lato =)

    I have seen guso in CDO but have tried it only one. I found it tough, compared to lato. Maybe the batch I tried wasn’t blanched enough, or the texture was just too unfamiliar for a seven-year old kid. Hehe.

    I find this is best paired with inihaw na bangus, fresh off the flames.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:22 pm

  34. Flying Fish says:

    @Kasseopeia: Many thanks for your reply. My dad’s from Pangasinan and they do call it ar-arosep over there. Like you, I prefer the smaller, more briney variety. The more “oceaney,” the better.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 10:11 pm

  35. Lynn says:

    I miss guso!!! I love it with chopped green mangoes, vinegar, a little bit of sugar and good oyap. Lechon on the side…puso…warm sunny breeze by the beach….eating with my hands under the shade of a coconut tree….HEAVEN!!!

    Apr 15, 2011 | 1:07 am

  36. Fards says:

    Now I am yearning for guso and lato.

    Apr 15, 2011 | 1:47 am

  37. Nonoy says:

    I didn’t know that Carageenan or seaweed is used in ice creams. Such a valuable information you have here. This what makes me give much respect to your blog. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and adventure. Cheers! :-)

    Apr 15, 2011 | 8:08 pm

  38. Shalimar says:

    A friend is a general manager of the processing plant in Cebu for this seaweeds.

    Apr 27, 2011 | 1:11 am

  39. jane says:

    hello, where i can buy , lato or arosep ,guso in houston texas?

    Dec 23, 2011 | 1:16 pm

  40. jheebs tahil says:

    im from digos city we processed seaweeds(guso, agar-agar) as dried it can last for 3years and its color green maintain as fresh when dry. we processed by the use of japans tech. if you want to order and some info, pls contact us 09473949593
    this is the first time processed that maintains its natural color green.

    Sep 24, 2012 | 3:03 pm


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