Exotic health foods: Kaipen from Lotus Foods

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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Mike: We're speaking with Caryl Levine, the owner of Lotus Foods. We're talking about kaipen, which is pressed fresh water green algae. Caryl, could you talk to us about where this is made?

Levine: We found this algae in Laos. It is indigenous to Luang Prabang, which is the old capital in Laos. During the dry months, which are November through February, when the rivers are at their lowest, the people in the villages go to the middle of the river and take algae off the rocks in the bottom of the river. It's beautiful fresh water green algae -- it's riverweed, as opposed to nori, which is seaweed. So this kaipen, or kai at that stage, is not as briny, not as salty.

After they harvest the kai, they clean each strand in the river and then put it out overnight to drip dry. The next day they make a solution of tamarind juice, and on a beautiful palm mat they'll pound out the kai with the tamarind juice. The process is almost the same as making hand made paper, and is pounded until it's nice and thin. At that point it's the size of a regular baking pan, and when it's totally thin and there are no holes in the algae, they'll essentially make a pizza. They'll take their scallions and their sesame seeds and their thinly sliced tomatoes, and they'll throw it on like a pizza and put it in the sun to dry. And that's when the kai becomes kaipen.

They also use it like a chip. The same as you would have a beer and chips, in Laos they would sit down with a beer, fried kai and hot sauce. We love flash frying it and using it like a vegetable or a crouton or a side dish. I also love taking a whole sheet, wetting it and using it as a wrap. You can wrap a piece of fish in it and bake it or steam it. You can fan it over a gas grill and get it a little crunchy and then just eat it like a snack. I also take it and stick it in the oven for a few minutes, put it through my spice grinder, and then you can use it on the top of rice. It's really a delicious food. It's also one of Mother Nature's most nutritious foods. Again, it's not as briny, not as salty as nori. It's also a sun-dried food, whereas nori is already roasted, so it's really best used when you can cook with it.

In the same village, they also make something called Cassava sesame crisp. They take cassava, which is a tuber, and cook and mash it. Then they add some natural sugar cane syrup, freshly grated coconut, and black and white sesame seeds. They put it through a rosewood press, similar to what the Mexicans do with tortillas, and make about five inch discs. They put these on a screen in the sun to dry. And when you want to eat it, you flash fry or bake it. When it's nice and golden brown, you can form it into a tuille, a coronet or a bowl, and then use it with your favorite sweet or savory. So you can actually put a dessert in it, or a tuna tartar, or even a salad in it.

Mike: What is the strongest nutritional property?

Levine: It's the cassava, really, which is a starch, but it's a very healthy starch.

Mike: What about the kaipen?

Levine: Kaipen is full of nutrients. It's one of nature's most nutritious foods. It's got tons of vitamins and minerals; it's an especially excellent source of potassium, fiber, calcium and iron. It's got protein in it as well.

Mike: Does this fall under the category of raw foods?

Levine: Yes, definitely, a raw food. We have a website, www.lotusfoods.com, which shares wonderful recipes on how to use and prepare the kaipen, as well as the cassava sesame crisp. All of these products can be bought on the website as well.

Mike: Are there other places where customers can buy them?

Levine: Not really. Some of the whole food stores in Northern California have them, but we mainly sell through our website. When you're in distribution, they want things to move very fast. The website has products like our rice flours; unique items which are a little bit slower to move through a grocery store or a natural food store. Stores want more turnover. The products are still great products, so we sell them via our website. They're also gluten-free and wheat-free, so it's really good for the celiac community. That's important. As is all our rice.

Mike: Are your products certified organic?

Levine: They're not certified organic, but again, the kai is taken right from the river. It's all very natural.

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About the author: Mike Adams is an award-winning journalist and holistic nutritionist with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health He has authored more than 1,800 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, and he has published numerous courses on preparedness and survival, including financial preparedness, emergency food supplies, urban survival and tactical self-defense. Adams is an independent journalist with strong ethics who does not get paid to write articles about any product or company. In 2010, Adams created TV.NaturalNews.com, a natural living video sharing site featuring thousands of user videos on foods, fitness, green living and more. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products (BetterLifeGoods.com) and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also the founder and CEO of a well known email mail merge software developer whose software, 'Email Marketing Director,' currently runs the NaturalNews email subscriptions. Adams is currently the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit, and regularly pursues cycling, nature photography, Capoeira and Pilates. He's also author a large number of health books offered by Truth Publishing and is the creator of numerous reference website including NaturalPedia.com and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. His websites also include the free reference sites HerbReference.com and HealingFoodReference.com. Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the innate healing ability of the human body. Known on the 'net as 'the Health Ranger,' Adams shares his ethics, mission statements and personal health statistics at www.HealthRanger.org

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