Umibudo Seaweed (Sea Grapes): The Caviar Algae Of Okinawa, Japan
Have you heard of "Umibudo"? The Japanese name literally translates to sea grapes. It's a kind of algae that is very popular in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa. To learn about what it is, its health benefits and how it is consumed in Japan, please read this article!
The name umi (sea) budo (grape) comes from the appearance of the seaweed that looks like tiny clusters of green grapes. The bubbles are like the leaf part of the underwater plant. They grow on a long stem that is also edible. Seagrapes are not exclusively found in Japan, in fact, it is native to many parts of the Indo-Pacific coast and other cultures have also incorporated this edible seaweed into their cuisine. Seagrapes are also commonly eaten in the Philippines for instance.
Okinawa's Staple Side Dish
In Japan, Okinawa is definitely the culture with which people mostly associate the umibudo with. The algae has been farmed and consumed for hundreds of year, and the locals often refer to it as "green caviar". The taste is slightly salty and has a certain 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 it. The Japanese call this a "puchi puchi" texture. In Okinawa, it is 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 that people order with beer.
The umibudo seaweed is also added to sashimi dishes or what is called "umibudou don", which is a bowl of rice with sashimi and umibudo on top, on which is poured a sauce called "sanbaisu" (三杯酢) which is a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin in equal portions. 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. The seaweed also has many health benefits because it is rich in nutrients. Seagrapes are rich in 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!
Umibudo is a really nice food that is part of the Japanese cuisine. You should definitely try it if you are interested in seaweed. If you visit Japan, the umibudo can probably be ordered at most Okinawan restaurants found all over the country.