Like caviar, but better

Caviar is a well-known luxurious delicacy globally. Salt-cured fish roe, it’s traditionally of wild sturgeon, but today includes other fish like salmon, trout or carp. Depending on which fish, caviar can be expensive, meaning not everyone can afford to give it a try.

But that’s alright. You don’t have to break the bank just for the exquisite umami taste that caviar offers. You don’t even have to go to an expensive restaurant (for traditional caviar) or travel to countries like Russia, Iran or China — the world’s leading producers of caviar.

There’s an alternative that isn’t half as expensive, and in some instances, even better — it’s a vegan option for those of us that don’t eat animal products. This caviar-like dish is made from sea grapes, or lato as the filipine locals call it.

Lato, Caulerpa lentillifera, is an edible type of seaweed with small green bubbles growing on its stems in place of leaves. Served as a salad in the Philippines called ensaladang lato, these green bubbles pop in your mouth when eaten with a slightly salty taste that earns them the name “green caviar”.

Besides its roe-like shape and caviar-like taste, lato is also thought to promote a healthy, long life as the “longevity seaweed”. It is packed with vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, C, D, magnesium and calcium. No wonder it’s a growing superfood around the world.

A unique trait of lato’s is that it cannot be dried, much like kombu, the Japanese seaweed. It also can’t be soaked or rinsed in fresh water — it would melt. It takes a lot of delicate effort to clean it when it’s harvested, and consuming it definitely requires opportune moments. You have to be quick once it’s served to taste the green caviar, or it just disappears.

Just like how lato makes a lavish addition to any salad, the Philippines can also offer diversification to your investment portfolio. Learn more about the Philippines at The Philippines: Is this a good starting point?