Salt is a natural mineral comprised of two essential nutrients sodium and chloride, critical electrolytes in the body. Traditionally, salt was used to preserve food before the invention of refrigeration. High amounts of salt can inhibit bacteria growth and prevent food from decaying. Salt is collected by vaporizing sea water or other mineral-rich water and from salt mines. Health benefits of salt include: maintain fluid balance; prevent muscle cramps; regulate normal blood pressue; support cardiovascular health; facilitate nerve transmission; reduce diabetic risks; maintain good oral health with salt water gargle; promote respiratory health; suppress appetite and regulate sleep. It is also possibly the utmost fundamental ingredient in cooking, it makes food flavoursome and stimulate your tastebuds.
Table salt is produced by superheating which damages most valuable composites in natural salt. Often table salt is also fortified with iodine, bleached and additives like anti-caking agents added to prevent moisture retention, resulting in a white, free flowing salt from your salt shaker. Definitely, refined table salt is not the healthiest salt for consumption. It used to be a simple choice of choosing between table salt and sea salt, but there are now many different varieties of gourmet salts on offer in addition to the more traditional types of salts. Gourmet salts are generally unrefined and naturally contain trace amounts of essential minerals like calcium, potassium, iodine, iron and zinc, resulting in differences in colours, taste and texture.
Gourmet salts have blasted into celebrity fame in restaurants and even home cooking around the world with an assortment of crystal sizes, textures, colours and flavours available. The types of gourmet salts available are Himalayan Pink Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt and Celtic Salt, just to name a few. They differ not only in their colour and taste but also in their sodium and mineral contents. The intricacy of choosing amongst the diverse range of gourmet salts available to enhance the dish really depends on what ingredients are used, whether red meat, poultry, seafood, fruits or vegetables and even drink rimmers, sweets and desserts. Gourmet salts will no doubt add an extra level to a dish especially in contrast to the regular refined table salt. For the finest outcome, gourmet salts should be sprinkled onto a dish after cooking is finished for the texture and visual appeal, followed with the unique burst of flavour in the mouth.
The Salt Box is an Australian company with the most extensive range of gourmet salts in Australia. It has 35 assortments of gourmet food salts available and some in numerous grain sizes. Their extensive range of magnificent food salts are: Himalayan Pink salts; Fleur de Sel de Guerande, a Celtic Salt with a subtle greyish colour and fairly moist which initially became well-liked in France; Kosher salts; Black Indian Black Salt Kala Namak, Cyprus Black Flake Salt and Hawaiian Black Lava Salt; Smoked Salt with 4 kinds of wood: Alderwood, Applewood, Hickory and Mesquite including an Extra Bold Smoked Salt; Spicy Salts like Chipotle, Scorpion, Szechuan Pepper, Habanero, Ghost Pepper, Jalapeno and Sriracha; Flashy Blended Salts include Wild Porchini, Vintage Merlot, Roasted Garlic, Rosemary, White Truffle, Black Truffle, Toasted Onion and Matcha Green Tea; and lastly, salts from around the world like Peruvian Pink Salt, Hawaiian Red Salt, African Pearl Salt; Italian Trapani Salt and Bamboo Jade Salt. The Salt Box also sells Salt Blocks, Salt Gift Boxes and a good range of Bath Salts. Be sure to check out “The Salt Box.” website at www.thesaltbox.com.au , for their full collection of remarkably creative gourmet salts.
I have received 4 types of gourmet salts from The Salt Box for me to sample. The salts are Hawaiian Black Lava Salt, Hawaiian Red Salt, Matcha Green Tea Salt and Szechuan Pepper Salt.
Hawaiian Black Lava Salt
This salt contains naturally derived unrefined sea salt and black Hawaiian volcanic lava. Its black shade is due to its activated charcoal content that has purifying and detoxifying effects on the digestive system and acts as a great digestive aid as well. They are perfect as a finishing salt for seafood, pork dishes and even a simple omelette or sunny side up fried eggs, just imagine the colour contrast. It is especially suited for food with bold flavour meat roasts, spare ribs, and as well as more delicate dishes like roasted vegetables. Frequently used in artful or elaborate cuisine especially conventional extravagant French cuisine for stunning visual effects. Black salts are greatly valued and healthy when used occasionally.
Hawaiian Red Salt
This is another unrefined Hawaiian salt that acquires its name and red hue from the Hawaiian volcanic clay named alaea. Regularly referred to as alaea salt, it has the utmost amount of essential trace minerals in any salt, particularly rich in iron. If you are anaemic, this salt will be a beneficial supplement to add to your pantry. This is a fantastic staple to keep in the kitchen as it adds an appealing finish and intense flavour to all kinds of meat, seafood and even sweets and desserts.
Matcha Green Tea Salt
Stunning green colour with a delicate plant aroma defines this matcha infused sea salt. The subtle flavour of this salt enhances a wide range of dishes, especially Asian inspired dishes like tempura, edamame and sushi to vanilla ice cream, cakes and pastries. Perfect for use as a garnish just before serving for superb flavour and stylish colour contrast. I tried this infused salt with vegetable tempura, and they taste absolutely divine. This salt is also flawless with simple pan fried salmon and/or any Cantonese salt and pepper dishes.
Szechuan Pepper Salt
Szechuan peppercorn sea salt makes a spicy substitute to plain old salt. Szechuan peppercorn is not really a black pepper or chilli pepper. It is actually dried red outer husks of the berries of trees of the rue family, the genus Zanthoxylum. It is not hot or spicy like black, white or chilli peppers. It has a mild lemony flavour and has numbing effects in the mouth, found only in this Asian berries. This Szechuan pepper infused salt is a mild and delightful finishing salt for all types of Asian cuisines. Particularly suitable for Cantonese salt and pepper dishes, Chinese braises or stews, Kung Pao chicken, Ma Po tofu, sticky pork spare ribs and many more. I made Cantonese Salt and Pepper Chicken with this Szechuan Pepper salt and I can really taste the fresh berries and citric notes of this salt and it complemented the Salt and Pepper Chicken perfectly. Refer below for the recipe.
Overall, it is generally healthy to consume unrefined salt as it is normally lower in sodium and higher in vital minerals. In particular, exotic gourmet salts can create an exquisite culinary event. When you use flavoured salt as a finishing to any dish, you can develop further on existing flavours and create an additional level of new flavours. Most noteworthy is by using gourmet salts to produce taste that are challenging, costly and difficult to achieve like truffle, black salt, wild porchini, vintage merlot (wine infused), smoked salts and many more. Select a salt that matches your requirements and tastebuds and savour it in moderation together with a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Cantonese Salt and Pepper Chicken Recipe
Serves 5 – 6
Rice bran oil for pan frying
1.5kg (3.3Ib) skinless and boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
Steamed rice to serve
For The Marinade:
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons pale or medium dry sherry
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon ground paprika
For The Flour mixture:
1½ cup rice flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon salt
For the garlic oil:
3 tablespoons rice bran oil
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large fresh red chillies finely chopped
2 spring onion (shallots), finely sliced
For the Garnish:
Szechuan Pepper Salt (The Salt Box.)
- Heat up a small pot with the rice bran oil, pan fry the garlic on low heat until lightly golden, then add in the chillies and spring onion (shallots) and briefly stir-fry for another 1 minute. Turn off the heat and set aside in a small bowl.
- Marinate the chicken pieces with the marinade prepared, rub and mix well into the chicken pieces. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Add the flour mixture into a large mixing bowl, whisk and mix well. Lightly coat the chicken pieces with the flour mixture using a kitchen tong, shake off excess.
- Heat up a frying pan with 2 inches of rice bran oil, and pan fry the chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Pan fry the chicken pieces in 3 batches. Drain on kitchen paper towel before placing on a serving plate.
- To serve, drizzle with the garlic oil and garnish with some Szechuan Pepper Salt (The Salt Box.).
- Serve with steamed rice.
Disclaimer: The Salt Box. has sent me free samples of their products for me to try and write about my opinion.