Hello, and welcome to the first snippet of Are You Going To Eat That? Here is where we, by which I mean I, look at rare, controversial and out and out weird foodstuffs.
Today, it’s Bara Lafwr, Welshman’s Caviar or as it’s widely peddled, Laverbread.
On a recent trip to Wales, my other half voiced an urge to try some ‘actual Welsh food’. Being a many time visitor to the biggest county in England (I jest, I jest) I am aware that we already eat some of the best Welsh produce frequently at home in sunny Essex- you know, leeks and Caerphilly cheese and Welsh Lamb. But now here is this Laverbread. You don’t get that every day.
Laverbread is not bread. It is, however, Laver, or porphyra umbilicalis if you prefer- a single cell thick seaweed which is plentiful on the Welsh coastline and easily tinned.
Concern number one was that despite being plugged by many as a ‘Traditional Welsh Delicacy’ we ventured into many fooderies in the costal town of Aberystwyth and couldn’t find any Laverbread until we happened upon a small healthfood shop, where we quickly snapped up the last dusty tin on the shelf for a bargain £2.49.
Concern number two was that this stuff is plugged as the aforementioned ‘Traditional Welsh Delicacy’. I’m all for delicacies, but get suspicious if they are defined as traditional as this suggests that you eat it because your granny and some other people now older than her and likely dead ate it back in the day so now you have to too regardless of how evil it tastes.
But I put aside my concerns and took my little tin of seaweed and, well, did nothing for a week. Because I didn’t know what to do. Google told me to make a pate with cheese and cockles, or to fry it with eggs or to cook it with a bit of orange juice (no, really) and slather it all over my roast lamb. Logic demanded that I contact a friend who has A: Never served me a bad dinner and B: Is violently Welsh. We’ll call her Ange (because that’s her name) and Ange instructed me that Laverbread is a breakfast food and that I was to fry it in the bacon fat and serve alongside, but not mixed into, my eggs. Ok, I can do that.
So, it went in the bacon pan, was cooked through and served.
It is now that I am going to take a moment to tell you that Laverbread is rich in vitamins A, B, B2, C and D not to mention magnesium, calcium and iodine. Expert types speculate that it could also have anti viral properties and even protect your tummy from the effects of radioactive poisoning. In short this gunk is good for you. And you know it’s good for you when you taste it, because that can be the only reason people have been eating it for generations.
The taste is hard to describe, it’s mineraly (not a word, I know) rather than just salty. It certainly tastes of the sea, but the bits of the sea you go looking for dubious mutant crab creatures in, not the fresh bracing surf you’d like to take a dip in or use as a romantic backdrop.
As a single foodstuf on the end of my fork, I couldn’t manage it. The overpowering taste was worsened by the texture which is exactly the sticky gunk you would expect to result from boiling seaweed for hours on end before mushing it up and canning it under high heat and pressure. Speaking of heat, it got worse as it cooled. Determined to persevere, I spread some over a nice chunk of baguette, topping with a thick slice of bacon, and attempted to ingest it once more. Adding the texture of the bread and the flavour of the bacon, it became a billion times more palatable, maybe as it stopped being the chief flavour. In this fashion, I managed to consume my half of the laverbread without further incident, or sadly enjoyment. But I felt stocked up on vitamins and nuclear fall out protection so hey, small win there.
To quote my breakfast companion, who’s need for going native induced this whole episode ‘I wouldn’t really call it nice’.
So there you have it. Laverbread. I wouldn’t really call it nice, and I am not going to be eating it again.
thanks to wikipedia and http://www.laverbread.com for some useful reference material.
4 thoughts on “Are you going to eat………….Laverbread?”
I have never seen it in a tin! It is usually sold fresh in the market. It comes with or without. Which means with rolled oats orwithout. I think your brave to try I as it looks vile. I would say it tastes ozoneie. Well done you for trying it. I’m sure only die hard Welsh still eat it. I’m assured I loved it as a child.
I know this comment comes long long after you wrote the entry as I’ve only just stumbled across your blog, but if it’s not too late, you really did eat it all wrong!
I moved to Wales 2 years ago and made the very same mistake of just having the laver as a side gloop. but no, the correct Welsh way is to mix it with oats (70gr oats/200gr laver), let it stand for half hour or so to soak the oats, then form into patties and fry! I also add some grated cheese to that for a nice crust. Try it that way if you get a chance, it’s our standard “dirty dinner” now, with chips and a fried egg on top 🙂
The way we ate it back home was first fry bacon in butter, then throw the laverbread into the pan with fresh cockles, mix it up, add a dash of seasalt and vinegar, and serve as is or add anything else breakfasty to the plate… Eggs, toast, sausage… I particularly like cockles and laverbread on a thick slice of buttered toast (real salted butter!)
I grew up with this and I miss it so much having moved to Edinburgh, fresh cockles are hard to find and I can only order Parsons tinned laverbread online for delivery.
I can vouch that fresh laverbread is so much nicer than the tinned. The best places to buy it is anywhere on the south coast, from fishguard to Cardiff, but many towns inland will have seafood stalls on market day. And Swansea always has a supply!