Monday, October 27, 2008

Black salt love: Vegan MoFo #18

What can I say, I refuse to call myself a foodie (I shuddered when I typed that word!) but I do appreciate the occasional odd ingredient find here and there. First it was the rose water and now it's... black salt.

The concept of finishing salts has been haunting me ever since I read Isa's post on them on her Post Punk Kitchen blog. I was so curious to try the salts but I wasn't willing to shell out too much on them. Right after my stroll around the Salcedo Market and lunch at New Bombay, but before hunting around Baker's Dozen, I stopped by Assad's Mini Mart, probably my favorite grocery store of all time. I love telling people about Assad's because it literally is an adventure to shop there. I hesitate to blog about it because I don't want people flooding into the store and buying all the good stuff and leaving me with nothing to buy but perhaps cans of ghee. But, I do want to spread the vegan love, and the black salt love too.

Assad's Mini Mart is a Pakistani grocery store on Jupiter Street in Makati. It is very veg friendly (fake meats in the freezer, foil packets of ready-to-eat veg food in the aisles, tons of beans and nuts, and yummy spiced junk food) and a great place to buy spices at dirt cheap prices (P40-60 or $0.82-1.25 for 50 grams). Yes, and their spice selection is really good, never shop at McCormick ever again! A lot of the packets of spices don't have labels though, or if they do they're in Hindi or Urdu spelled out using the English alphabet. So, if you have some kind of Hindu/Urdu-English spice dictionary, you can easily whip it out and use it to hunt down the spices you need. If you don't have a spice dictionary, you'll have to go by sight and smell to distinguish spice A from spice B, and if you're lacking in the olfactory department too, just holler for one of the helpful sales clerks, who are Filipino but know the spices in Hindu / Urdu by heart. Oh, Assad's is great for buying cheap-o psyllium husks as well (P100 or $2.04 for 100 grams), in case you're, you know, constipated because you don't eat your beans and vegetables or you're on Atkins. You can find rose water here too!

Anyway, this post shouldn't be about Assad's, it should be about black salt love. Black salt, काला नमक or kala namak or sanchal in Hindi, is unrefined salt from the volcanic rocks in India. It has tones of pink, purple, and gray, thanks to trace minerals and iron. Yup, the salt isn't black, but it's called black salt. It has a distinctive sulfuric taste akin to eggs that is not unpleasant.

Black salt imparts its peculiar flavor in chaats (fresh salads), raitas (cucumber-yogurt salads), chutneys, and other Indian food. One can also have the salt sprinkled on cucumber, watermelon, and mango for that salty-sweet flavor that we Asians adore.

Black salt has also been utilized extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, India's classic medical science. It is a digestive and can cure flatulence and heart burn. According to this site, it doesn't increase the sodium content of blood so people with high blood pressure or on a low sodium diet can still use it. It also improves eyesight and aids in indigestion. Seriously, what's not to love?

I've tried this sprinkled on tofu scramble (my favorite is tortang talong or eggplant omelette sans the egg -- sauteed garlic, onions, tomatoes, roasted eggplant, and mashed firm tofu) and it is amazing. I think it would be good on fresh sliced tomatoes and green mango, ala mangga't bagoong. Oh, my mouth waters just thinking about it!

Another reason to love black salt: it was only P30 or $0.62 for 50 grams. Since you're not supposed to use it like regular salt (meaning, sprinkle a bit on your food right before eating; still use regular salt in the cooking), 50 grams should last a long time.

If you come across black salt, get it. Then share the black salt love with your friends and family.

*Info on black salt paraphrased from here, here, and here.

4 comments:

Jeni Treehugger said...

Thanks for putting what it is in Hindi. I get all my spices from my local Asian store and I so want to try this Salt. I am intrigued!
Thank you
:)

vegan domestic goddess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vegan domestic goddess said...

You're welcome!

Here's an English-Hindi spice dictionary if you need one: http://www.fatfreekitchen.com/hindinames-spices-pictures.html

Mara Gutierrez said...

Hi! Are they selling rosewater?? I badly need it :(

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