I HATE grocery-shopping. It is the most boring waste of time in the world, especially if you live alone and shopping trips are copy/paste style. Unless I’m trying out something new, I actually don’t ever need to change my shopping list.
The only time shopping is bearable is when I come across something strange and new, and fortunately my two favourite supermarkets are the kind that bring in all manner of obscure products from exotic locations. I’m an absolute sucker for them! One of these days I’ll probably contract some terrible fungal disease from randomly trying out products I know nothing about (for all I know, I could have eaten shoe polish by accident) but I can’t help myself.
I’m not the only one though – someone else has a site just to review weird Asian food – the regular Food Review magazine from back in the day was never this fascinating:
Last night I stopped at the supermarket on the way home for a box of biscuits to take to a work do where the potential need for bribery was high. As I walked through the entrance I noticed plastic buckets stacked on top of each other. On closer inspection, I found that the stickers saying “Crispy Roll Cracker” and the golden-brown scroll-y shapes inside hailed from Korea. My favourite! A product from a country I’ve never been to, with a label which leaves lots to the imagination. It came in several varieties – ginger, brown rice, sesame, laver… my eyes kind of stuck on the one labelled “laver”.
I’d heard the word somewhere before but couldn’t quite place it. I figured it was ringing a bell because of it’s similarity to the unpleasant words lavatory, and larvae; nonetheless, I bought a bucketful. I couldn’t wait to try it out and managed to prise the lid open with my keys while still in the car (stationary! I’m all for road safety) and popped one of the crunchy tubes into my mouth, at which point the smell hit me and I suddenly remembered what laver is – seaweed!
I first heard of laver on an episode of “Come Dine With Me” set in Wales, and one of the contestants was an ex-Capetonian who pooh-poohed one of the other hostesses use of laver-bread on the menu as if it was exotic, when it’s a common ingredient there. I thought that it was bread with seaweed somehow incorporated into it, but this is what Wiki says:
“To make laverbread, the seaweed is boiled for several hours, then minced or pureed. The gelatinous paste that results can then be sold as it is, or rolled in oatmeal; it is generally coated with oatmeal prior to frying.”
Um. No thanks, Welsh-people. I’ll stick with the Koreans on this one.
I love the texture – it’s like a fortune cookie but maybe a fraction thinner, light and crispy. The flavour was strange – at first it’s mildly sweet like a fortune cookie, but then there’s a hint of a brothy umami taste (as if one had left a fortune cookie sitting next to a bowl of chicken stock for too long) – so it sits on the fence between sweet and savoury. I like it. I almost finished it.
The laver was more noticeable in the aroma than the flavour, especially when I climbed into my car this morning and became enveloped in a cloud of laver-odour that will probably haunt me for many a smelly kilometre.
I’m still not really sure what kind of consumption occasion this product is intended for – should I have stuffed something inside it? Is it perhaps to be served with cheeses, like other crackers? Somehow I can’t imagine either of those events happening at a typical Korean meal… so I figure it’s one of those delicacies with which to make the foreigners feel stupid for not knowing what to do with it.
I will definitely be trying out the other flavours, especially since they probably won’t leave my car as noxious-smelling as the laver.
PS: GO READ THAT ASIAN FOOD REVIEW IMMEDIATELY!!