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  • Writer's pictureChaitanya Chowgule

Product development

Finding out what Goan seaweed wants to be

Some parts of the world have long standing traditions of seaweed as food. The species they use are by far the most well known globally. Seaweed like nori (Porphyra sp.), kombu (Laminaria sp.), dulse (Palmaria sp.) and the products that are made from them are becoming recognisable on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves around the world. Here in Goa we have a different set of seaweed species with very different tastes and textures. This is both incredibly exciting and a bit daunting. It means we cannot replicate products and methods developed by those more mature seaweed traditions. Instead, we can do anything.

There are certainly things to learn from the ways Japan, Korea, the Philippines and other seaweed eating countries work with the species they eat. How different types of seaweed respond to heat, cold, acids, fermentation. How they can be pressed or dried. Beyond these fundamentals we rely on our hands-on experience of the seaweed, feedback from our customers and, most importantly, our own experiences and traditions.

Early on in our first harvesting season we learnt important lessons about how to wash seaweed to do the least damage to it and how to shape it when we dry it so that it doesn’t crumble. The more we work with the different species of seaweed in Goa the more we learn by feel and by trial and by error how best to showcase this amazing thing. Our customers also play a big role in product development. Feedback on the differences in flavour and texture of different parts of a single seaweed species has led to us separating out the various parts.

Goa has an incredibly diverse set of culinary traditions. Products of its rich biodiversity, migration, colonialism and trade, we have traditions of foraging, fishing, pickling, drying, breadmaking, the list goes on. We turned to the different ways Goans preserve fresh produce for inspiration. From chepni tor (raw mango in brine) to galmo (small, dried prawns) we are constantly finding new methods and ingredients to use with seaweed. In some cases the ingredients add flavours to the seaweed, in others the seaweed adds to the other ingredients. Brining seaweed with chilli and garlic reminded us of raw mango pickles, dried prawns added to native, Goan furikake (a Japanese seasoning made with seaweed) added a depth of flavour similar to kismoor, a Goan condiment eaten with curry and rice.

Far from being a limitation, Goan seaweeds’ differences from more familiar species is an opportunity to combine traditional methods of processing seaweed with local methods and ingredients. We are just scratching the surface of what Goan seaweed could be.

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