Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it's almost obscene to look at or carry home to your kitchen. But...I decided after a year and a half in Chile to try this hideous looking spectacle of a sea vegetable called cochayuyo. Here is a picture:
Keeping it real, I asked at the market for an explanation of what it was, and how it was prepared. The clerk spoke, as usual, a dialect of Spanish which I am not familiar with and I was instantly lost and almost abandoned my quest for a culinary adventure. Then I remembered my own advice: When shopping in a foreign country for food stuffs, always look for the tiniest, oldest woman, who has taken 15 minutes just to choose a tomato, and ask her. A lovely elderly woman, about 4 foot 7 inches had been working the lettuce table for almost that much time, so I grabbed the extraterrestrial food item and went to ask her about it. She said this...
You soak it overnight in a pan of water with salt. The next day you rinse it well, and cut it into pieces and serve it with oil and lemon and cilantro. I got the general idea, then came home and went to my trusty Chile forum for more takes on preparing this prehistoric beast. Generally the responses were the same, except that it turns out you should cut it into at least three inch pieces first, then soak.....
I tried it today, and it was, well....let's just say the lime, olive oil and chopped parsley I used to toss it with were the only thing I enjoyed about it. It tasted like cold, boiled pork rinds. To be fare, I love pork rinds, but crisply fried, and salted sufficiently. Not giving up, I tried a few more pieces and decided YES, it does taste slightly smoky and like pork rinds. The next logical step was to make a pot of my favorite bean soup using some lovely porotos (frijoles-beans) I bought at the market. I cheated a little by adding some liquid smoke flavor and then dumped in the Cochayuyo. I have to tell you that it is absolutely excellent! You'd think I cooked the beans with some nice, fatty ham hocks, or pork rinds. It's wonderful!
Tomorrow, I will drain and mash the leftovers and add a little garlic for a bean dip and see how that sits.
note: the Cochayuyo is a seaweed, long and tubular, brown, and frankly hideous looking. It is harvested off the coast of Chile and apparently eaten as a salad, as my online chefs shared with me. When dry and newly purchased, it has a slight mushroom odor. As it is soaked and cooked, it loses the brown coloring and the cellulose cells inside swell and fill with liquid. Might be better to use some flavoring in that process...lime, lemon, vinegar...to give it a little more distinct taste.
[Weekly Review ] | Weekly Review, by Joe Kloc
16 hours ago