What's The Difference: Pako Vs. Lato

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ILLUSTRATOR Louis Miguel A. Talao

The pako and the lato are two kinds of fresh green vegetables that are found in the wet markets. If you've never heard of them, you might be wondering what these might look like and what they taste like. Here are the facts you need to know about these two fresh ingredients: 

This is pako, also known as fiddlehead fern.
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1 Pako is a fern. Lato is a seaweed. 

Pako is the local name for fiddlehead ferns. It's commonly found in the provinces where these can be grown and harvested in the wild. The fiddlehead fern is actually a pretty ornamental plant that is edible. It's characterized by its gorgeous curled tips which look like the head of a violin, also known as a fiddle. 

Lato is a marine plant, a seaweed. It's popularly known as sea grapes because the seaweed grows like little globes in a bunch that does look like green grapes growing on a stem. These are very small globes, measuring around 10 millimeters in diameter each. 

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This is lato, a type of edible seaweed also known as sea grapes.
Photo by Shutterstock

2 Pako tastes like a fresh, leafy green while lato tastes like the sea. 

The best way to enjoy either ingredient is fresh. Pako is a delicate fern and just like many leafy greens, it's a delicious fresh taste. However, unlike some salad greens, it's more grassy in taste and it's got a rough texture with leaves that are sharp enough to cut your mouth if you eat the more mature leaves. That's why the tender, unfurled heads and upper young leaves are usually the only parts of the pako that are used in dishes. 

The lato meanwhile are like many seaweed: it tastes like the sea. Unlike other seaweed, the fun is in the eating. The little globes are known as grapes for a reason: these literally pop in your mouth with a burst of salt. That's because those little pearls contain seawater, filtered and stored in its bubbles. This is also why when preparing lato, the pearls can grow bigger when soaked in water than when you originally brought them home. It absorbs the water giving you juicier pearls when ready to eat. 


How do you prepare pako and lato for dishes? 

Both ingredients are easy to prepare. Pako need a quick rinse just like other leafy greens while lato can be rinsed and soaked if it's drying up. Rinsing lato however is best done quickly so that its briny ocean taste will not be completely washed away. You can also rinse with salty water to return its delicious salty taste. 

Here are recipes to try if you're curious to taste these two ingredients in a salad: 


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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