Song Jeong reports in Korea JoongAng Daily that gamtae, or Ecklonia cava, a species of brown algae, is quickly becoming influential in the edible seaweed market. Only grown on clean mud flats, this plant is as thin as a piece of string and very sensitive. Every stage of its production is done manually, from harvesting to drying. It goes bad when exposed to high temperatures or the sun for a long period, so it needs to be processed and distributed with care. But the taste and silky texture, harvesters say, makes all the hassle worth it.
Gamtae stole the limelight outside of Korea first. Michelin-starred restaurants in the United States and Belgium began featuring gamtae on their menus. Peter Gilmore, a renowned Australian chef, once said gamtae has the aroma of a white truffle. The seafood was even featured in a French documentary.
This is all ascribed to Song Ju-hyeon, the CEO of Badasoop. The 44-year-old businesswoman set up factories, got certified by the government’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (Haccp) management system, and visited places connected to gourmet foods such as international food fairs, department stores and hotel restaurants. She believed gamtae could stand next to other luxurious ingredients such as caviar and truffles.