Ever wondered why your attempt at a tofu scramble or vegan scrambled eggs always end up tasting a tad flat? Your serious vegan friends have a secret weapon in their pantry that you don’t know about: black salt that smells like a boiled egg.
What is black salt?
Black salt, also known as Himalayan black salt, Indian black salt or kala namak, is a volcanic rock salt manufactured in the regions surrounding the Himalayas. It contains, in addition to sodium chloride (the key chemical compound of salt), traces of sulphur compounds naturally found in the Himalayan mountains.
What does black salt taste like?
This sulphur content is what gives the salt its unique pungent smell and tangy taste, reminiscent of rotten eggs. Indian black salt can vary in colour - some may not be even black at all. Any shade of brownish pink to dark violet can be found and it is available in whole chunks or in powdered form.
(Note that while high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide can be toxic, the amount found in black salt is considered negligible in its effect on our health.)
Types of black salt
Head to any gourmet store and you will find that there is more than one type of black salt. In fact there are two other common types of black salt that you need to be aware of: black ritual salt and black lava salt. These black salts are nothing like the umami-rich, flavour enhancing kind that is Himalayan black salt, and are used for very different purposes.
Black Ritual Salt
Firstly, black ritual salt is a type of salt made by a blend of charcoal powder or dyes to obtain the dark colour, and is usually found at special curiosity stores for purposes outside of the kitchen.
Black Lava Salt
Black lava salt, on the other hand, is simply a table salt blended with activated charcoal and comes from Hawaii or Cyprus. Use black lava salt (also called Hawaiian black salt) as a finishing salt - it is great for visual effect rather than adding actual flavour.
How to use Himalayan black salt
Black salt is used in many Indian and Asian cuisines as a flavour enhancer. Indian kala namak goes in many dishes such as pickles, salads, chutneys, raitas, and fruit salads.
Black salt in chaat masala
Familiar with chaat masala? The funky, salty, spicy, and sour spice blend uses Himalayan black salt as one of its key ingredients. Black salt is what gives chaat masala its funky aroma, allowing you to transform anything into a chaat (a popular Indian food).
Black salt as umami enhancer
Himalayan black salt is a great umami enhancer, that can bring an extra layer of complexity to any dish.
Black salt in vegan egg-substitutes dishes
Use black salt in any dish that incorporates vegan egg-substitutes such as vegan scrambled eggs, tofu scramble, chickpea omelet, vegan fried rice, vegan tortilla, frittata, quiche, or even in a vegan carbonara. Black salt has a lower sodium content compared to regular salt, but a small amount still goes a long way in adding that extra funky kick.
Black salt in fried foods
Black salt can enhance the flavours in fried foods as well - sprinkle over snacks like fried peanuts, fried legumes, and pair with classic Indian spices such as coriander seeds, mango powder, and turmeric.
What special properties does Himalayan black salt have?
As mentioned above, black salt actually has less sodium than normal table salt. While sodium is a necessary part of a healthy diet and have an essential role in our bodies, most Westerners receive too much sodium in their diet through processed foods, leading to high blood pressure and other problems. Black salt could play a small part in addressing this problem.
Black salt is not ionised like normal table salt, so if you exclusively consume this salt, you will need iodine from seafood or other sources to avoid goitres and other health issue related to iodine deficiencies. However, you can use black salt to skip out on other additives that are normally added to table salt (to prevent caking, for example) that could actually be damaging to your health. Black salt has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, and has been connected to easier digestion, heart health, and fewer complications from diabetes.
Want to know more about salt? Discover more types of salt from all over the world.