In the Pink of (Salt) Health
More and more chefs are choosing Himalayan pink salt over iodised versions across Indian restaurants and professional kitchens. We take a look at the reasons for this subterranean seasoning's rise in popularity.
White in salt bottles has taken a pink turn, with chefs in the country opting for Himalayan pink salt as the choice of seasoning, bidding goodbye to iodised options. “It’s clear, pink salt is more flavoursome than the normal salt,” Chef Alex Moser of The Andaz Delhi, explains.
In his kitchen, he grinds the pink rock and mixes it with local ingredients like lemon rind and garlic to add flavour to his free-range chicken with eucalyptus honey. “The salt improves digestion, boosts metabolism, stabilises blood pressure, boosts immunity, treats sinus, and promotes weight loss and sleep. Because of its natural minerals and richness just a pinch is 40% more flavoursome than the normal salt,” he signs off.
Historically, salt used to find its worth in gold. Highly valued for its symbolic and therapeutic benefits by the Romans, Chinese, Jews, Egyptians and Hindus, it also has been mentioned in many ancient religious and cultural texts, such as the Bible, Charaka Samhita, Book of Ezra. In fact, the words ‘Salary’ and ‘Salad’ have been derived from the word ‘Salt’.
“Natural salt comes primarily two sources—sea or halite. Halite or rock salt as it is popularly known, is the purest form of salt formed at various points of times in the geologic past, where large water bodies evaporated, leaving behind a mineral-rich salt bed untouched by time or pollutants,” Ruchir Modi, founder of Puro Wellness that launched a 100% natural, healthy mineral salt at an affordable price, explains, adding, “Unfortunately, with industrialisation, salt production shifted to factories, which used extreme heating procedures that stripped the salt of all its minerals (except NACL). In addition, several anti-caking agents (for instance, E-536 that is a form of cyanide and banned in the US) and additives were used to make white refined salt free-flowing and camouflage the high moisture problem. In fact, some chemical factories use the by-product of their soda ash plants and have to refine them to make white salt,” says Modi, whose company was recognised by Government of India after rigorous evaluation under the Startup India campaign for its innovative food solutions that have the potential to reduce healthcare expenditure two years ago.
Mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan, chefs are turning to Himalayan pink salt for improved health and flavour benefits. In Bengaluru, at Chef Abhijit Saha latest restaurant Rocksalt, many of the dishes see the use pink salt. The Watermelon and Basil Martini comes with a rim of pink salt, and they have 25 different pani puri waters made with the Himalayan salt, found in Eastern Pakistan. “When the tectonic plates moved, the mountains were formed. And that is where the salt is mined.”
Last year, Grand Hyatt Goa, started using pink salt for cooking and grilling seafood. “We have got our Pink Himalayan Salt blocks from Sialkot in Punjab, Pakistan. The salt bricks are made from large pieces of pure pink salt that are hand-selected and converted into salt bricks, heated to over 200 degrees,” executive sous chef Rupesh Orforcar explains.
Contrary to the common impression, the large blocks of salt impart only a very moderate saltiness. The trace of minerals imparts a mild and full taste to the salt, and by extension, more flavour complexity to the food. “We use salt blocks to grill king prawns, fish, scallops, and lobsters. The butterfly king prawns with Lemon and caper butter sauce and thick cut chips with rosemary and garlic, Scallops with Green peas and mint sauce, creamy polenta, wild mushrooms, parmesan and olive oil,” adds Orforcar.
The salt, in the past couple of years, has gained popularity as it is recognised as a super food and raw organic ingredient. Chef Sanjana Patel of La Folie Lab gets her stash from Himachal Pradesh where it’s sold in its natural form. She pairs the chunky crystals of pink salt with Ecuadorian 70% smoked chocolate and for tartine, the salmon is cured with pink salt. “I am not a fan of the ones that you get in grinder jars in retail outlets. I prefer crushing salt myself and using it for different applications as it allows me to grind it to different particle size,” says Patel.
At Bandra and Kala Ghoda outlets of 145 in Mumbai, Chef Amol Patil uses Himalayan pink salt in most of their Mumbai street food specials and signatures like Pani Puri, Sev Puri, and Amritsari Chole Kulcha. “It's a better substitute for normal salt. There are a lot of health benefits of pink salt as it's believed it's a purest form of salt on earth. Some of them I can say are loaded with around 80 minerals. Healthy vesicular system, stable pH balance, good for lungs and respiratory function, controlled blood pressure and for healthy bones, etc. It is an obvious choice,” he says.
Also Read: How to never get high blood pressure
Images courtesy (top to bottom): The Andaz Delhi, Grand Hyatt Goa, La Folie Lab
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