Some people collect magnets, some collect pens and some collect shoes.
I collect natural sea salts.
When Lourdelyn arrived from Hawaii, she called me and I could hear her beaming through her voice, as she said excitedly, “I got you something!” The first thing she did last night when she entered the house was to fish something out of her bag. And in her hand, she had something I’ve never seen or heard of before — Alaea Hawaiian sea salts.
She asked what I wanted and I guessed that Hawaii, with its tropical weather and volcanic landscape, ought to produce something interesting from the sea. So I asked for sea salt. I did research today and found that this unprocessed, hard-to-find red alaea salt is mixed with a small amount natural clay , giving it that red tint with its high iron-oxide content. The site also said that the people of Hawaii traditionally used this salt for ceremonies for purification and healing rituals as well as blessings of canoes.
It’s hard to explain to people why I go ga-ga over salt. Whenever friends go abroad and ask if I want anything, I always say, “It would be nice to get me good salt.”
“Salt. Seriously?” is usually the tentative reaction.
See, I believe every country will produce a different kind of salt depending on the weather, climate, water and mineral content and not everything is made available outside the country or town from which it is harvested. Most importantly, a good variety of sea salts are hard to come by in Manila and only ones I’ve found cost a whopping fortune (and to begin with, sea salts are not cheap). So it has become my choice treat if anyone asks what present I’d want because such things are hard to find.
My love for salt started when my friend Ding gave me a tube of fleur de sel during my chef/food-themed bridal shower hosted by my friend Sanj and her husband Marc
No, I don’t like my food salty and I don’t put more than a pinch of sea salts per dish. I enjoy the natural flavor of ingredients enhanced by a light sprinkling of salt or a combination of salts. In fact, I’ve always preferred coarse local salt over bottled fine salt and have no processed seasonings in my cupboard, save for Worcestershire and tonkatsu sauce. Most days, my husband and I feast on vegetarian dishes so I try to experiment with as many salts and herbs as I can.
After I learned to appreciate the subtle differences of the taste and texture of French salt versus ordinary coarse salt, I started exploring and moved to a jar of Himalayan pink salts, which is known also for its said therapeutic content and healing properties.
My sister-in-law once came home from Spain excitedly said, “I have a present I know you’re going to love!”. I opened it and received a fragrant box of Andalusian sea salt — large, coarse salt flakes fused with cumin that give my dishes a nice twist and texture. I’ve used it in a lot of my vegetarian recipes and vegetarian pastas, giving it that very subtle aroma.
One can hardly imagine my elation when someone handed us a Christmas box of lavender-laced vinegar and a jar of Fleur de sel, one that came specifically from the town of Guarande (which is most revered for fleur de sel) where workers hand-harvest the salt by scraping off the topmost layer before it sinks to the bottom of the salt beds. Recently, when a friend arrived from her Cambodia vacation with a pack of aromatic Kampot peppers, she also threw in a pack of Cambodian salts which I regularly use as my table salt for all my vegetarian recipes.
At the rate my spice collection has grown over the years, I decided to name my blog after the most essential ingredients in my kitchen.