Some of our crew at home hail from the small seaside town of Toledo, Cebu. Others call the island of Culion, near Coron, Palawan home. Suffice it to say they enjoy seafood, whether fresh and writhing, dried and salty or in salad form. Here are two ways they enjoy fresh seaweed. First up, kinilaw na guso a la Toledo (seaweed ceviche). Guso is a gelatinous, substantial seaweed, and our cook likes to blanch it for a few seconds before adding a vinegar dressing with large chunks of ginger, chopped tomatoes, red onions, salt and ideally, coconut or tuba vinegar. The reddish flavorful vinegar is the key difference between a good kinilaw and a GREAT kinilaw na guso. Notice the more olivey color of the blanched seaweed compared to the uncooked seaweed below. Frankly, kinilaw seems to be a misnomer as the seaweed is blanched, but who am I to argue? Best served with fried fish and eaten with your hands. The salad has a real textural and mouth feel that is unlike most salads you have ever eaten. To many, this is comfort food from the sea.
A simpler salad or seaweed side dish of sorts is super fresh lato served au naturel with a good coconut vinegar and salt, the way they do it on the islands of Cebu and Palawan. Lato are bright green in color and have almost grape like formations attached to a thick stemâ€¦ and when you bite into the lato they pop in your mouth and release a salty liquid truly reminiscent of the ocean. They seem particularly good if they are rinsed in salty water and popped into the fridge for half an hour so that they are cold when served. You can also apply the dressing used for the guso above to the lato but purists like to savour the lato with just a quick dip in good vinegar (and possibly some salt). I would have to agree with the purists as pouring the vinaigrette directly on the lato results in a gooey mess and a lack of pop when you bite into the seaweed. I didnâ€™t have dried fish with my lunch and seaweed yesterday but I bet it would have made a perfect match. Finally, if you want to go further on the seaweed salad realm, try the seaweed salad at Tsukiji on Pasay Road in Makati, wickedly pricey but wickedly good as wellâ€¦