5 salts from around the world

5 salts each with their own unique color and flavour

Salt is one of those ubiquitous ingredients that not only makes food taste better, but is a necessary part of the human diet. Chemically speaking, it’s a compound formed by sodium and chloride ions arranged in a lattice structure which is why it forms crystals.

While many take it for granted these days, there was a time when salt was more valuable than gold, influencing the growth and migration of civilizations and inciting wars. A recent tome to Salt recounts the epic history of this every-day ingredient revealing that it’s anything but mundane.

Common table salt is typically purified then enriched with iodine (to prevent Goiter), but this process strips any additional minerals and organic matter that can add flavour and character to the salt. The purification also makes it intensely salty since there are no impurities to soften the salinity. I don’t actually have any regular table salt, preferring to cook with either kosher (Diamond Crystal brand) or Maldon sea salt which are both mild without much flavour of their own. They both have a flaky texture that makes them easy to pinch between your fingers.

Below are 5 other salts I’ve picked up for various uses. Some are more exotic looking than tasting, while others pack an incredible dose of flavour that can compliment many dishes.

Japanese Chery Wood Smoked Sea Salt
Name: Iburi Jio
Region: Oga Penninsula, Japan
Method: Water collected from deep waters and crystallized in stainless steel. Smoked over cherry wood for flavour.
Colour: Light greyish tan
Moisture: Moderate
Texture: Small irregular crystals looks like damp sand.
Aroma: Strong smoky scent with notes of tar and a bit of red fruit.
Flavour: Perfect salinity, minerally but not too harsh, warm earth flavor with a ton of meaty umami.
Uses: Awesome smokey flavor goes well on meats, fish, salad dressing, or even caramels. This can be used either to cook with or as a finishing salt. Gives non bbqed meats a bbqed flavour without using “liquid smoke”. Delicious on sashimi.

Portuguese Fleur De Sel
Name: Flor de Sal (Portuguese Fleur de Sel)
Region: Algarve, Portugal
Method: Flor de Sal or flower of salt is hand skimmed from the surface of evaporation ponds in the warmer months of the year.
Colour: Almost pure white
Moisture: Moderate
Texture: Medium to small irregular crystals
Aroma: Neutral
Flavour: Strong salinity, mineraly, briny, full of umami
Uses: This is one of my favourite salts. Used as a finishing salt, it adds intense bursts of salt with loads of umami. Used for cooking it adds some great flavor to all dishes.

=Hiwa Kai on left and Alaea salt on right
Name: Hiwa Kai
Region: Molokai, Hawaii
Method: Harvested from Pacific Ocean waters then solar evaporated with black lava rocks. To finish the crystals are dusted with activated charcoal.
Colour: Charcoal black
Moisture: Dry
Texture: Medium uniform crystals
Aroma: Neutral (not surprising since charcoal filters are used to rid air and water of ordors)
Flavour: Well balanced, mild, very neutral flavor, this one is more for looks and purported health benefits.
Uses: Awesome smokey flavor goes well on meats, fish, salad dressing, or even caramels. This can be used either to cook with or as a finishing salt.
Uses: Since the charm is all in the color, I would use this exclusively as a finishing salt. It doesn’t really add any flavour though so aside from the novelty and purported health benefits, I don’t really see any reason to use it.

Name: Alaea salt
Region: Hawaii
Method: Locally harvested sea salt combined with Alaea, a volcanic clay that’s full of iron oxide (rust) which gives it its unique colour.
Colour: Deep reddish pink
Moisture: Dry
Texture: Medium uniform crystals
Aroma: Like mineral water
Flavour: Low salinity, mellow earthy flavour. Despite the medium sized crystals, the high mineral content keeps it from being too salty even if sprinkled directly on food.
Uses: I’m actually pleasantly surprised by this salt. Clay and salt sound so unappealing, but it’s so mellow and the color is very cool. This is the salt you’re supposed to use in dishes like Kalua Pork and Tuna Poke.

Sel Gris (Grey Salt)
Name: Sel Gris (grey salt)
Region: Brittany, France
Method: Solar evaporated in clay pools, then hand collected using wooden rakes.
Colour: Greyish green color
Moisture: Wet
Texture: Large to small irregular crystals
Aroma: Minerally, smells a bit like uncooked rice
Flavour: High salinity, strong mineral flavor.
Uses: This one’s a bit on the harsh side. Honestly I’m not a big fan. I’m not really sure what I’d use it for. Might be good to use when pickling vegetables.

What’s your favourite kind of salt?

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    Haha, First!

    You forgot to mention that without enough iodine, people get the gout! iodine deficiency is a Kiwanis concern!!1!!

    My favorite “finishing” salt is Maldon. I love the giant pyramidal flakes – they’re perfect for salads and steaks. I use Morton’s kosher salt for everyday cooking, though.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    Haha, First!

    You forgot to mention that without enough iodine, people get the gout! iodine deficiency is a Kiwanis concern!!1!!

    My favorite “finishing” salt is Maldon. I love the giant pyramidal flakes – they’re perfect for salads and steaks. I use Morton’s kosher salt for everyday cooking, though.

  • http://www.tartelette.blogspot.com/ Tartelette

    Great post Marc! I have one for you that I would like to share via snail mail :)

  • http://www.tartelette.blogspot.com Tartelette

    Great post Marc! I have one for you that I would like to share via snail mail :)

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I’d never heard of kosher salt until I read American cookbooks…and iodised table salt is basically what has been available in New Zealand up until recently. Love the look of that charcoal salt and the red salt, I’m sure they would look incredibly cool sprinkled over food…I bought some Maldon salt because Nigella said so LOL but really love it, table salt is so…sharp and acrid in comparison.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I’d never heard of kosher salt until I read American cookbooks…and iodised table salt is basically what has been available in New Zealand up until recently. Love the look of that charcoal salt and the red salt, I’m sure they would look incredibly cool sprinkled over food…I bought some Maldon salt because Nigella said so LOL but really love it, table salt is so…sharp and acrid in comparison.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    Great and informative post. People are all up in arms about salt, but, yet again, in the right amounts, we must have it! In a blog post we did about the beauty of salt, I discovered just how important it has been in history and how often it has been written about in the Bible. It really is an amazing thing that so many just don’t even think twice about. Can you imagine a world without salt!?

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    Great and informative post. People are all up in arms about salt, but, yet again, in the right amounts, we must have it! In a blog post we did about the beauty of salt, I discovered just how important it has been in history and how often it has been written about in the Bible. It really is an amazing thing that so many just don’t even think twice about. Can you imagine a world without salt!?

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    what a fantastic post marc!!
    so informative and great pictures as well.

    salt definitely was highly regarded, and still is i reckon, in the past. wasn’t there a Salt Trade Road or something in China? Can’t remember the name of it, there was the salt road and the silk road or something like that which i learnt in school years ago.

    x

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    what a fantastic post marc!!
    so informative and great pictures as well.

    salt definitely was highly regarded, and still is i reckon, in the past. wasn’t there a Salt Trade Road or something in China? Can’t remember the name of it, there was the salt road and the silk road or something like that which i learnt in school years ago.

    x

  • http://www.weheartstuff.co.uk/ James Davidson

    Great to see a post about salt – such an underestimated part of cooking thanks to it’s bad press!!! I love Maldon too – but someone who is local to me Halen Mon do some really nice salts, including a vanilla and smoked version which are great!!!! Ferran Adria uses it!!

  • http://www.weheartstuff.co.uk James Davidson

    Great to see a post about salt – such an underestimated part of cooking thanks to it’s bad press!!! I love Maldon too – but someone who is local to me Halen Mon do some really nice salts, including a vanilla and smoked version which are great!!!! Ferran Adria uses it!!

  • Eirikur

    Sel Gris in my opinion is best salt choice for swishing and gargling after brushing one’s teeth, or, using when one has a sore throat. The minerals, anecdotally of course, seem to do wonders.

  • Eirikur

    Sel Gris in my opinion is best salt choice for swishing and gargling after brushing one’s teeth, or, using when one has a sore throat. The minerals, anecdotally of course, seem to do wonders.

  • http://newlywedcooking.blogspot.com/ sharon

    What a great and informative post. A friend recently brought me Hawaiian salt and I haven’t been quite sure what to use it for. I may just have to try some Kalua pork.

    The Japanese salt looks especially intriguing.

  • http://newlywedcooking.blogspot.com sharon

    What a great and informative post. A friend recently brought me Hawaiian salt and I haven’t been quite sure what to use it for. I may just have to try some Kalua pork.

    The Japanese salt looks especially intriguing.

  • http://chewonthatblog.com/ Hillary

    Thank you for this lesson on salts. I haven’t had any of these except regular Fleur de Sel (and I like that a lot!) I would love to try these.

  • http://chewonthatblog.com Hillary

    Thank you for this lesson on salts. I haven’t had any of these except regular Fleur de Sel (and I like that a lot!) I would love to try these.

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  • http://illuminatedforest.com/ William

    I was raised on Molokai, and we used sea water collected from a secluded beach for all our cooking.

  • http://illuminatedforest.com William

    I was raised on Molokai, and we used sea water collected from a secluded beach for all our cooking.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03261854294583954189 chiff0nade

    What’s my favourite kind of salt? Plain old Morton’s table salt.

    All these other “salts” are nothing but SHOW and HYPE . . . stuff used by those people who feel the need to impress someone (or to attempt to make up for their own lack of culinary skill).

    As a PROFESSIONAL CHEF, I don’t need to impress anyone, so I don’t use this kind of stuff.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ syrie

    Marc, this is a fantastic Post. I really want to try the Flor de Sal. I’m going to google it and see if I can get it in Vancouver.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com syrie

    Marc, this is a fantastic Post. I really want to try the Flor de Sal. I’m going to google it and see if I can get it in Vancouver.

  • http://thepapillonpantry.blogspot.com/ Kiriel

    Thanks for your interesting salt review!

    You would so love Australian Murray River salt flakes. Gorgeous pink flakes with a unique soft flavour.

    Chiff0nade; if you can’t taste the differences between salts, maybe you are in the wrong business! Its like saying that you only use white vinegar because raspberry vinegar and balsamic vinegar and malt vinegar are only hype. Total nonsense. While it is true that the differences in salts are subtle, depending on the dish those subtelties can be important. The simpler the dish, the more important those differences.

  • http://thepapillonpantry.blogspot.com Kiriel

    Thanks for your interesting salt review!

    You would so love Australian Murray River salt flakes. Gorgeous pink flakes with a unique soft flavour.

    Chiff0nade; if you can’t taste the differences between salts, maybe you are in the wrong business! Its like saying that you only use white vinegar because raspberry vinegar and balsamic vinegar and malt vinegar are only hype. Total nonsense. While it is true that the differences in salts are subtle, depending on the dish those subtelties can be important. The simpler the dish, the more important those differences.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    I have yet to experiment with different types of salts. I will have to see if I can find some interesting types.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    I have yet to experiment with different types of salts. I will have to see if I can find some interesting types.

  • Darlene

    Also raised in Hawaii, I am never without alae’a. Because of the isolation of the islands from other cultures and the limited amount of indigenous seasoning in Hawaii, alae’a was an important element of their cuisine. This salt really shines when used in very simple recipes. It can add a certain degree of complexity to a dish that would otherwise be very bland. No matter were I live this is a staple in my kitchen. I never use Morton’s (it sucks) and I get the iodine I need by using dried seaweed products from Japan, such as kombu or wakame. Note to Chiff0nade: You do need to impress someone, your customers, because they are paying you to do so.

  • Darlene

    Also raised in Hawaii, I am never without alae’a. Because of the isolation of the islands from other cultures and the limited amount of indigenous seasoning in Hawaii, alae’a was an important element of their cuisine. This salt really shines when used in very simple recipes. It can add a certain degree of complexity to a dish that would otherwise be very bland. No matter were I live this is a staple in my kitchen. I never use Morton’s (it sucks) and I get the iodine I need by using dried seaweed products from Japan, such as kombu or wakame. Note to Chiff0nade: You do need to impress someone, your customers, because they are paying you to do so.

  • marc

    Heather, yea, there is that problem, but I figure I get enough iodine in the processed and restaurant foods that I eat that it shouldn’t be a problem. I love Maldon salt too!

    Tartelette, awesome! Thanks for the generous offer:-)

    Laura, I think that’s who got me into Maldon as well. It’s actually pretty similar to Kosher salt, but I use Kosher for general purpose cooking because it’s a lot cheaper.

    We Are Never Full, people are always up in arms about something. I think the whole saturated fat thing is such a circus. Convinced that animal fats are so evil, people switched to hydrogenated vegetable oils as a substitute, but as it turns out those (transfats) are worse than the natural substance they were supposed to replace. And I won’t even go into the whole Olestra debacle. Did you know there was a time when asbestos was touted as a miracle product that was good for you because it’s naturally occurring?

    Thanks Diva, yep there was a whole network of salt roads throughout Europe and Asia that were used to carry salt to regions that lacked it.

    James, vanilla salt sounds awesome! I’m going to have to look that up.

    Eirikur, that’s good to know. It tasted stronger than other salts, so perhaps it helps kill bacteria?

    Thanks Sharon, Alaea would be good on a lot of things, it’s my new favourite up there with Fleur De Sel and the Japanese salt.

    Hillary, it’s amazing how many different kinds there are. I may have to write a follow up post to this one with 5 other kinds of salt.

    William, that sounds amazing. I’d like to try that some day.

    Thanks Syrie, try looking online if you can’t find it locally.

    Kiriel, next time I’m down there I’ll have to pick up some of this Murray River salt, you’ve piqued my interest.

    Kevin, if you can find it, give some smoked salt a try.

    Darlene, I agree I love that it’s mild enough to use without running it through a grinder despite the relatively large crystals.

  • marc

    Heather, yea, there is that problem, but I figure I get enough iodine in the processed and restaurant foods that I eat that it shouldn’t be a problem. I love Maldon salt too!

    Tartelette, awesome! Thanks for the generous offer:-)

    Laura, I think that’s who got me into Maldon as well. It’s actually pretty similar to Kosher salt, but I use Kosher for general purpose cooking because it’s a lot cheaper.

    We Are Never Full, people are always up in arms about something. I think the whole saturated fat thing is such a circus. Convinced that animal fats are so evil, people switched to hydrogenated vegetable oils as a substitute, but as it turns out those (transfats) are worse than the natural substance they were supposed to replace. And I won’t even go into the whole Olestra debacle. Did you know there was a time when asbestos was touted as a miracle product that was good for you because it’s naturally occurring?

    Thanks Diva, yep there was a whole network of salt roads throughout Europe and Asia that were used to carry salt to regions that lacked it.

    James, vanilla salt sounds awesome! I’m going to have to look that up.

    Eirikur, that’s good to know. It tasted stronger than other salts, so perhaps it helps kill bacteria?

    Thanks Sharon, Alaea would be good on a lot of things, it’s my new favourite up there with Fleur De Sel and the Japanese salt.

    Hillary, it’s amazing how many different kinds there are. I may have to write a follow up post to this one with 5 other kinds of salt.

    William, that sounds amazing. I’d like to try that some day.

    Thanks Syrie, try looking online if you can’t find it locally.

    Kiriel, next time I’m down there I’ll have to pick up some of this Murray River salt, you’ve piqued my interest.

    Kevin, if you can find it, give some smoked salt a try.

    Darlene, I agree I love that it’s mild enough to use without running it through a grinder despite the relatively large crystals.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05752371044060690705 cakewardrobe

    Tres interesting post! I like to take kosher salt and pinch it in between my fingers like I like popping bubble wrap! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05752371044060690705 cakewardrobe

    Tres interesting post! I like to take kosher salt and pinch it in between my fingers like I like popping bubble wrap! :)

  • Marc

    cakewardrobe, if you enjoy crushing kosher salt between your fingers you should give Maldon sea salt a go. It’s even more satisfying:-)

  • Marc

    cakewardrobe, if you enjoy crushing kosher salt between your fingers you should give Maldon sea salt a go. It’s even more satisfying:-)

  • katie

    I love alae’a – I first tried it a few years ago when a friend who grew up in Hawaii put it out with dinner and I fell in love. I recently put it in my salt grinder and have been using it for almost everything, except salting pasta water, for which I still use Kosher salt. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased regular table salt. I find it overly salty and sharp.

  • katie

    I love alae’a – I first tried it a few years ago when a friend who grew up in Hawaii put it out with dinner and I fell in love. I recently put it in my salt grinder and have been using it for almost everything, except salting pasta water, for which I still use Kosher salt. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased regular table salt. I find it overly salty and sharp.

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  • Ellie

    Salish Salt is an AMAZING smoked salt that I’ve recently come in contact with. It’s great on burgers and in soups. I’ve even used it in a stir-fry! Thanks for the education- I’m always up for new culinary adventures!

  • Ellie

    Salish Salt is an AMAZING smoked salt that I’ve recently come in contact with. It’s great on burgers and in soups. I’ve even used it in a stir-fry! Thanks for the education- I’m always up for new culinary adventures!

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  • Happykacule

    I like Himalayan Rock Salt:-)

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  • http://www.angstrom-mineral.com/liquid-ionic-multi-mineral-supplements.html ionic minerals

    I also like Himalayan Rock salt. Thank you for being here.

  • lurkerhere

    I’ve been lurking for a few days and I love this blog! It’s given me so many ideas for dinner :)

    I love Korean Jookyum (bamboo salt), and Songyum (pine salt) – two traditional baked salts. Bamboo salt is sea salt that is fired inside a bamboo plant at a very high temperature, it looks very powdery (kind of like icing sugar), is a mix of grey/white, and is actually quite salty. Good as a cooking salt, and also used for its health benefits & antiseptic/anti-inflammatory properties (great for those with gingivitis & frequent canker sores). Pine salt is made similarly, except using pine needles. It’s got a slight yellow tinge to it and was used more for medicinal purposes (and as a toothpaste in the days before the modern stuff was available. It’s a bit milder than the bamboo salt. You can use both salts as finishing/cooking salts and the flavor has a depth that is not present in plain old salt!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      They sound awesome. Do they take on the flavor of the tree? Especially curious about pine salt! I’ll have to look for it the next time I go to the Korean market.

      • Lurkerhere

        Bamboo salt doesn’t really have a bamboo-y flavor, or at least I’m not able to detect it. Pine salt tastes like pine needles though – although it’s very faint. Pine salt also has a cool yellowish (almost neon green) sort of pastel chartreuse color, it’s very fun!

  • daforcecoiledwithin

    Greetings All,
    I’ve been consuming Bamboo Salt for a while now and find it not as salty. It has a very powdery texture as lurkerhere stated. I don’t find it salty, at first yeah the salty taste is mildly there but very, very quickly it dissipates. My wife applies a bit on her joints of her fingers or feet for swelling and the swelling and pain dissipate(she has RA). We’ve partnered with a producer and we’re still consuming it with no health issues. I drink it with bottled water (make sure not reverse osmosis) and for me it’s great. So far it’s going great!

  • Jack Blue

    I really like Real Salt (brand) from Utah. Such a unique flavor, hard to describe. The most important part of a natural salt is it’s non toxic properties and it’s minerals. Also pink Himalayan salt is great!!

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!