Himalayan Sea Salt
By Ali Blanchard / June & July 2012
IF YOU SEE HIMALAYAN sea salt in a chunk, it looks like a slab of crystalline pink granite, more suitable for installation as a kitchen countertop than use in cooking. As the new hot thing among foodies with a global interest in how to enhance their meals, this special kind of sea salt is reputed to have healing properties that go far beyond how it flavors food.
Other advantages? A square of Himalayan sea salt will start a conversation when sitting on your dinner table for your next party. Aesthetically speaking, it looks cool, too. Containing iron, potassium, magnesium, and dozens of trace elements needed by human bodies, Himalayan sea salt is mined from a place that used to have ancient oceans dating back 500 million years.
It is taken out of the ground by hand from the Khewra mine in northern Pakistan in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Then it is cut into blocks or molded into reusable salt bowls, among other functional forms. Though it sounds weird, you can actually cook directly on the salt slab as you would any skillet.
Think of a freshly caught filet of salmon grilled or baked on a square of Himalayan sea salt that is several inches thick and rock-solid. Since the salt pieces aren't non-stick, a little butter or oil is needed, which also prevents too much salt from being absorbed by the fish. It is normal to hearing popping sounds as the salt block heats.
Another use of the product is for curing meats. Or you can mix and grind herbs on it. Try making a fresh fruit salad in a large salt bowl, then transferring it to another bowl before the meal. Prior to stovetop use, remember to first heat the salt block slowly for a brief time in the oven.
After putting the block on the stove, increase the heat temperature of the burner gradually. If you fail to do so, the block may crack. This salt can be heated up to 900 degrees. It will freeze to zero degrees.
Another nifty factor in using the product is that a block of Himalayan sea salt can stay hot or cold for hours, making it an ideal serving platter for parties with an overlay of a cleaned palm frond leaf or soy papers between the food and the block.
Repeated use of the blocks is encouraged since they are naturally anti-microbial. Washing the block involves wiping it clean with warm water (no soap, ever) and drying it completely. Let it dry for a whole day before re-use. For storage, wrap the block in plastic to prevent the intrusion of moisture. Though a small layer is removed after each washing, rest assured that your block of Himalayan sea salt can be productive in your kitchen and savory in your food for years to come, with proper care.
Versatile beyond the kitchen, Himalayan sea salt is winding up in spa products such as foot scrubs and bath salts. Some people use it to heal aches, pains, and skin irritations. There are even lamps made with the salt, whose owners swear by their properties to provide relaxation, stress relief, and help with insomnia and headaches. Through their natural emission of negative ions, the lamps are also known for clearing the air of tobacco smoke (perfect when one person in a home or office is a smoker and the other isn't) and helping sufferers with bronchitis and asthma by allowing them to breathe more freely.
The salt comes from the evaporation of the ancient ocean. Unlike other salt deposits, this one became solid crystal with the formation of the Himalayas as a result of the region's plates shifting and colliding to form the mountains. Pure and pristine, untouched by the degrading hands of man and the corrosion of the elements, the salt has remained in this state for many millennia.
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