It is salt, which distinguishes the smell of food and the properties it has – when added it releases molecules in air giving food the aroma, which is an integral part of taste. Depending on the amount you sprinkle it either highlights or suppresses different flavours. With less amount it bites into the bitterness (in bitter gourd & brinjal/egg plant) but enhances the sweet and sourness – chutney or dahibaigan. On the higher side it enhances the umami – try the sweetened dal and khichdi of Maha Prasad. For savouries and meat dishes salt does play an important role. But not to forget the curing of foods with salt which has been an old practice.
Salt comes in many forms and hues – fine powder, course, flaky, chunks, pink, sea grey and black or white. Normally at the culinary level we have – Twelve major types. Table Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Himalayan Sea Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Fluer De Sel, Kala Namak, Flake Salt, Black Hawaiian Salt, Red Hawaiian Salt, Smoked Salt and Pickling Salt.
At our own backyard we have quite a big patch in Gajapati and Ganjam districts. The saltpanpatch stretches to about ten kms by two kms. This is mainly in Huma and Ganja. Bringing in the seawater and leaving it to dry harvest the salts, and slowly collecting the layer with specially made bamboo bat. Depending on the water content and size of the chunks the price is decided. In the hey days this areas were in much demand and even had a port – Gopalpur where salt was exported from. With time and advancement of technology, it is diminishing now.
In India we are restricted to: Table Salt – common salt, which is used in India, dissolves quickly and has Iodine in it. In small quantities it is good for health. Kosher Salt – the health salt, which has less iodine content and mostly used for those who do not go for solid intake. Sea Salt or Pickling Salt – produced by evaporation method. This salt is rich in minerals and takes time to dissolve. Mainly used for making pickles. Low Sodium salt – this contains less sodium highly processed. Mainly used by users who have high blood pressure. Pink Salt – this is the latest addition on the dinner table and harvested from Himalayan rock salt. Mostly used for it health benefits: reducing muscles cramps, blood circulation. This variety is very popular among the athletes.
The best ways to select a good quality salt are: Quality and Purity – check the manufacturing processes. Do not consider the price as quality determinant. Always check the colour, moisture content, chemical content which is important for our health. Usually a good per cent of moisture is good to have the minerals in place.