Familiar to us all as a condiment on the table as well as a fundamental ingredient in the kitchen, the white sprinkling of salt is a regular sight around the world. But then there is black salt.
From the clear Pacific waters on the Hawaiian island of Molokai comes black salt. These glossy black pearls are a blend of hand harvested sea salt mixed with a purified volcanic charcoal. There is no industry or people to create sewage or pollution in these areas resulting in a clean tasting salt with a subtle smoky flavor. A perfect complement for many seafood and poultry dishes as well as pasta, eggs and fries, this Hawaiian black salt can add the wow factor to many dishes. As it dissolves quite quickly it must be scattered across the plate just before serving.
In the mountainous Himalayan regions of India and Pakistan lies another black salt that is mined from volcanic underground deposits. Kala namak is the local name for this unrefined salt that has been a vital addition to many chutneys, raitas and pickles for thousands of years. But this isn’t the sort of salt that can be used interchangeably with ordinary table salt and neither is it black. Kala namak is full of minerals and iron and when it is ground down into a fine powder it turns a purplish or pinkish gray. The flavor itself is only vaguely salty; instead it has a sulfurous quality rather reminiscent of rotten eggs.
Chaat masala is a popular pungent sweet and sour spice mix which incorporates Kala namak as a vital ingredient. It is also popular with the vegan population of the region flavoring tofu to mimic eggs in salads for example. An avocado with a sprinkling of this salt is said to resemble a boiled egg. It is commonly served over many fresh fruits with watermelons and mangos particularly favored. This odiferous salt is added to all manners of soups, fish dishes as well as to yoghurts and cheeses in the region.
This condiments flavor and aromatic qualities can be over powering for those who are not used to eating food containing this salt. According to Indian Chef Gurpareet Bains of Indian Superfood "it smells and tastes like triple concentrated rotten egg vapour”. Nice.
Photos courtesy of flickr - rhiaP, batia2, fotoosvmrobin, hedonistin