Recipe Testing: Pickled Ogo

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Coming back to Hawaii has triggered many food memories for me–shave ice (extra fine snow cone), seed (flavored preserved fruit), malasada (Portuguese yeasty donut), to name a few. Pickled ogo popped in my mind during my monthly girls’ zoom meetup. J was telling us about the Marine Learning program at Waianae High School, raising and selling ogo. That spiraled into talking about pickled ogo and ended with four of us buying 5lbs each. 

What is “ogo”? 

Blanched in salt water

Ogo is an edible seaweed that we used to handpick at the West Oahu beaches when we were kids. It has since been over harvest, and only the people who know the secret spot pick it. Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Hawaiian use it in their dishes. The Hawaiian name for this variety is called Limu Manauea. You can find it mixed in with different pokes.

I just learned that ogo is short for ogonori, which means large amounts of ocean moss in Japanese. Here’s a link to an article about ogo and Waianae’s Marine Learning Program, where I got my giant 5lb bag full. Here’s another piece if you want more information about the different limu (seaweed in Hawaiian).

The recipe

The funny part about the recipe is I thought my mom had one at the ready. I have distinct memories of coming home from the beach and her cooking up a storm making the pickled ogo. But when I asked her, she didn’t have a recipe. But my friend, Google, did several recipes. They were similar in ingredients, with slight variation in amounts. I picked this one, “My Dad’s Ogo,” from feeding my ohana.

First off, a 5lb bag of ogo is enormous. In my mind, it should be half the size. Fitting it in the refrigerator overnight was challenging, and I played refrigerator Jenga to make it work.

Smelled like the ocean
Ingredients ready to go: chili pepper, garlic, onion, green onion, shoyu, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, no sesame seeds

The hardest part was blanching the ogo in salted (Hawaiian) boiling water. It cooks so fast, as soon as it turned green, within seconds, I was scooping it out of the water to drain in the colander. Back and forth, back and forth. Remember, there were 5 pounds to blanch.

I got through half minus a bag of ogo saved for another time. I decided I better see how much of the dressing I need to cover half the bag. I figured to double the recipe would cover it. I mixed all the ingredients well, making sure the sugar dissolved. On tasting, I added a tablespoon more of shoyu. It needed a more saltiness to it.

I dumped everything into a giant yellow Tupperware container from the 70s and mixed well. Everyone (Mom, Dad, and I) had a taste test and agreed it was delicious. Letting it sit would make it even better.

First batch done

Still had another half to do but had an evening training, so that would have to wait till tomorrow morning. Mom wanted a version with Gochujang in the dressing.

First thing in the morning, started the salted water to boil. Now that I’ve done it once, I have the process to follow. The dressing would be similar to version one, without garlic or round onions plus five teaspoons of gochujang.

L to R: version one with garlic and onions, version two with gochujang, version three with salted cucumbers, more rice wine vinegar, and gochujang

Mom made a version of her own using the gochujang version; adding sliced salted cucumbers and more rice wine vinegar (not sure how vinegar she added; I say approximately 1/4 cup). It was more like a namasu dressing-much tarter than rest. I would have added another teaspoon for gochujang for a little sweetness and umami.

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