Seaweed Fritters (Buñuelos de Algas) from Rochas, Uruguay

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Buñuelos de Algas (Seaweed Fritters)

When I travel I like to try new things. I was recently in Uruguay where I sampled Buñuelos de Algas, otherwise known as seaweed fritters.

Seaweed Fritters are a specialty of the Rocha region of Uruguay. Humble hostels and high-end, ocean view restaurants all serve Buñuelos de Algas. All the guidebooks mention them as a must-try food. I agree.

I know I shouldn’t, but I have a weakness for deep-fried food and fritters may top my list of favorite deep-fried foods. From apples to zucchini, and everything in between. Piping hot fried dough, be it sweet or savory, is a decadent treat I just can’t resist. So I try to keep it special and reserve fried food for special occasions or as a treat. Uruguay was both special and a treat, so I’ll admit I succumbed to the allure of Seaweed Fritters more times than I would have at home.

Fritters are made in many parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas. In fact I’m pretty confident that every country and every culture has dropped batter into hot oil and pulled out something delightful. Seaweed Fritters seemed so unique to me that I couldn’t wait to try them. I don’t know why I found seaweed to be such a surprising ingredient in a fritter. When you are at the beach seaweed is everywhere, and it’s delicious (and healthful). I shouldn’t be surprised people have been frying it up and gobbling it down for centuries.

When we were in Uruguay I found that each place we tried had a slightly different take on Seaweed Fritters. One place added cornmeal, making their Seaweed Fritters a bit like hush-puppies in texture, but with that beachy taste that can only come from seaweed. Other versions were served as deep fried balls and some where pan-fried like a latke. All were delicious.

I’m sure it’s just the vacation talking, but fried food, cold beer and an ocean view is as good as it gets. Maybe it’s not the actual formula to longtime health and happiness, but it comes damn close. So as soon as I got home I fried up a batch. After all, the week after a vacation is almost as special as the vacation, right?

The basic formula for almost any fritter is 1 egg/1 cup flour/1 cup milk. The batter is mixed until smooth and can be flavored with almost anything. Including seaweed. If you like your fritters a bit cakier add an extra egg. As with most deep fry jobs, I prefer peanut or canola oil. Peanut oil or canola can be heated hotter than many other oils. Frying food at very high heat allows the oil to cook the food rather than be absorbed by it. This technique results in fried food that is less greasy.

Buñuelos de Algas or Seaweed Fritters

Whether you call them Buñuelos de Algas or Seaweed Fritters, fried food demands to be dipped. Just like French Fries with ketchup, Seaweed Fritters are usually served with a condiment. The most common accompaniment we came across was freshly squeezed lime and aioli, but chimichurri and plain old bottled hot sauce are also excellent slathered across Seaweed Fritters. GREG

Eggs and seaweedBuñuelos de Algas (Seaweed Fritters)Buñuelos de Algas  (seaweed fritters)

Buñuelos de Algas (Seaweed Fritters)

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Buñuelos de Algas (Seaweed Fritters)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large eggs
  • 3 cup milk
  • 3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 4 ounce fresh or reconstituted dried seaweed
  • peanut or canola oil (as needed for frying)
  • lime wedges (to taste)
  • aioli (for dipping)

Directions

In a large bowl beat eggs and half the milk until well combined. Slowly stir in the flour, in 3 or 4 additions, then add the baking powder. Once fully incorporated and relatively smooth, add the remaining milk, salt and cayenne pepper; stir until smooth. The batter should be slightly thicker than pancake batter, and not at all lumpy. Adjust consistency with water or flour as needed. Stir in the seaweed. Set aside to rest at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat about 3-inches of oil in deep, straight-sided pot over medium-high heat until a fry thermometer reached 375 degrees F. Carefully drop batter by rounded tablespoons into hot oil and cook until golden, turning and rolling them with a heat proof utensil as needed for even browning, about 2 minutes. Do not crowd, work in batches, making sure to return the oil to the proper temperature between each batch. Drain on paper towels; season with salt while still very hot. Serve then hot with fresh lime wedges and ailoi on the side.