Have you heard of "Umibudo"? The Japanese name literally translates to sea (umi) grapes (budo). It's a kind of algae species (caulerpa lentillifer) that is very popular in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa and in some parts of south-east Asia.
The name comes from the appearance of the seaweed that looks like tiny clusters of green grapes. Hence it is also called sea caviar.
The bubbles are actually the leaf part of the underwater plant. They grow on a long stem that is also edible.
Sea grapes in Okinawa have been farmed for hundreds of years and are known as a staple of the food culture of the prefecture. Because they are native to many parts of the Indo-Pacific coast, other cultures have also incorporated this edible seaweed into their cuisine to various degrees. Other than Japan, sea grapes are also quite popular in the Philippines most notably.
What Do Sea Grapes Taste Like?
The taste is slightly salty with an oceanic freshness to it. Most umibudo lovers would probably argue that the best thing about this food is its texture. The little bubbles burst in your mouth when you eat them. The Japanese call this a "puchi puchi" texture, which is an onomatopoeia used to refer to little things bursting.
In Okinawa, they are often eaten raw, with soy sauce, or a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin. This is a kind of side dish that you can find in many restaurants. Sea grapes go particularly well with beer!
The umibudo is also added to sashimi dishes to make what is called an "umibudo don", which is a bowl of rice with sashimi and umibudo on top. A sauce called "sanbaisu" 三杯酢 is poured on it. Sanbaisu is made of soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin in about equal proportions. If you have the chance to go to Okinawa, this is definitely a dish worth trying.
The nice taste and texture is not the only reason you should try umibudo. Indeed, the seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals. They are considered a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc and iron. They also contain a high level of vegetable protein per calorie and a good amount of omega3 fatty acids too. The consumption of sea grapes might be one of the reasons why Okinawans live so long.
They Can Be Found In Singapore Too!
A whole bunch of the sea caviar was seen growing in the clean waters of One Degree 15 Marina. We harvested it and made one of the most popular Filipino salad - Ensaladang Lato.
Watch the video below to see how it is done.
We love to harvest our own ingredients for our dishes because we know that they are the freshest we can get. Find out how we catch fish from the sea and cook for dinner here!