NATIVE FOOD: DISCOVERING AN AMAZING SEA INGREDIENT

 

If you know anything about me, it is probably that I love food, cooking and healthy eats. If you know a LOT about me, you might have learned somewhere that I’m first generation Chilean-American (both my parents immigrated to this country in the mid-70’s, right before I was born).

So you can just imagine my utter and complete joy when these two loves just collided in my life. I recently re-discovered COCHAYUYO, edible seaweed native to my country, Chile. I say RE-discovered because according to my mother, I definitely ate it as a child during my summers spent in her hometown of Vina Del Mar, Chile. Technically this stuff is called “bulk kelp” but how fun is it to say the Chilean term: Co-cha-you-yo? That word itself is a party in your mouth.

After a little bit of research, I learned how insanely nutritious and protein-packed this cool piece of seaweed is and was floored. But wait…then I cooked it at home and I really fell over. In a word: YUMMY.

Before I get into the specifics of how and why you should be eating this gift from sea, let me just say that I have no clue why it is not more popular and widely used here in the states other than the fact that you need to import it from Chile. I bought it from an online Chilean importer: www.tuchileaqui.com. There is also a Chilean store in lower Manhattan called Puro Chile that sells it. Check. Done. That was easy.

According to eatingchile.blogspot.com, nutritionally Cochayoyo is “remarkable.” From their website, I found out that it’s:

 

  • Crazy high in protein (often used as a meat substitute)
  • Practically fat free (not that I have a problem with good fats)
  • Super duper fibrous High in minerals, especially Iodine Rich in Omega 3’s and essential amino acids (like other seafood)
  • Over 100% of US Recommended Daily Allowances for: calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine and sodium. The last one not so bueno, but hey nobody’s perfect.

 

 

Before you run off and buy it, let me first tell you about the flavor.  I mention above that its delicious, but the caveat here is that Iprepare it in a super yummy way. To make it edible, Cochayoyo has to be soaked and then boiled or just boiled for 20-30 minutes. Simply strained out of a water bath, it doesn’t taste that strong and certainly doesn’t hold the strong sea-flavor of other sea vegetables. I really dig the texture, which is like a cross between a sponge and very al dente pasta. What’s cool about it, is that it magically takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. So far I’ve used it as a pasta substitute, in a stew and just alone sautéed with garlic and EVOO, recipe for the latter below.

Finally, there is something emotionally satisfying and – perhaps this is entirely psychosomatic but dare I say healing – to know that I’m eating something that my ancestors have prepared and eaten for millions of years. According to my research, Cohayuyo fell out of favor with the middle and upper classes in Chile because it was considered a food associated with the lower, indigenous class. Their loss. I’m about to stage a Cochayuyo comeback!

That it comes from the sea, where a lot of my favorite things come from, is yet another reason I adore this cool, magical thing called Cochayuyo.

Easy Sautéed Cochayuyo:

This is my “base” preparation for Cochayuyo. I’ll make this and then toss it in stir fry, add to stews or throw a fried egg over it for breakfast. My current favorite way to use this base is Cochayuyo “Alla Norma:” I simply pour my homemade tomato sauce (see my instagram for details), roasted eggplant, fresh basil and ricotta salata over it and I don’t even miss the pasta! Delish.

Ingredients:

Dried Cochayuyo

EVOO

Garlic – 2 cloves minced

Salt

Boiling water

Directions:

If you can soak the cochayuho overnight great, but I rarely plan that far in advance, so I usually just boil it for about 20-30 minutes.

Strain and reserve a little water in case you need it add more liquid later.

Cut it up into whatever size pieces you like. I’ve chopped it into small chucks or longer strips to make it feel more like a pasta substitute.

Heat up EVOO in a pan over medium heat and sautée the cochayuyo until is gets slightly crispy.

Add the garlic and toss around for about 30 more seconds.

Combine into any other dish or just enjoy solo!

The Verdict: My son taste-tested this recipe and thought it was yummy!  So glad I can pass on this family tradition to my boys….

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