best natural foods

Coralline seaweed

I only started to notice coralline seaweed in supermarkets and health stores about two years ago. It looked interesting. Through the plastic packaging,

I could see stems of light pink / coral colored seaweed coated with salt. After being curious for a long time, I decided to give it a try.

The lady at my neighborhood health store tells me to rinse and soak the coralline seaweed several times in water to get rid of the excess salt, store it in a bottle in the refrigerator and then add it to what the Chinese call "sugar water" - a dessert soup with ingredients like gingko nuts, lotus seed dried longan, barley, red dates, etc. It is supposed to add crunch and texture to the mixture.

Well, I cooked it too long and it dissolved. And not surprisingly, when the "sugar water" cooled, it gelled into a jelly, like agar agar or kanten.

So you can use coralline seaweed in agar agar recipes.

It is probably a more nutritious substitute, since coralline is a whole seaweed, while agar agar is only an extract - a polysaccharide, which is a form of carbohydrate, extracted from seaweed.

Unfortunately, I did not measure my amounts of corallline and liquids, so I cannot advise on the proportions to use. I shall experiment further and let you know.

When using coralline, however, remember to rinse and soak it a few times. Once I was lazy and only rinsed it thoroughly but without soaking. My jelly dessert turned out too salty and did not taste right.

You can also use this seaweed in salad dishes, such as dishes that call for wakame seaweed. Just cook the coralline briefly to soften, but be careful not to have it dissolve. Then toss with vegetables and a salad dressing. A vinegar-based salad dressing works well here.

An edible seaweed?

Meanwhile, my brief internet research did not yield any information about coralline seaweed as one of the editble seaweeds. All I found were discussions about its role in protecting corals (against strong waves), how to grow it in aquariums and its use as animal feed and fertilizer.

The coralline that I bought came from the Philippines and the few Filipino friends that I asked do not know about it either. I suspect coralline is one of the seaweed types previously used as animal feed, but some people figured they could sell it at far higher prices if marketed for human consumption. The 250 gram packet I bought cost about S$10, certainly not chicken feed!

I have no qualms with this - because animals sometimes get better food than humans. For example, I know that chickens are given filtered water and not chlorinated water straight from the tap. And that aquarium fish sometimes get full-spectrum lighting, which is better for health then the limited spectrum of regular or fluorescent bulbs.

Well, maybe there is a tradition of humans eating coralline seaweed after all. I need to find out more. But even if there wasn't one before, I think it is okay. Like other seaweed types, it is probably healthy. But if you are unsure, well, there are lots of other seaweed types to choose from.

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