Black salt, or kala namak, is a common ingredient in South Asian kitchens. It has a distinctive eggy-scent, which can take some getting used to if you’re new to its sulphurous fragrance. But much like fish sauce in Thai cookery, it’s worth familiarising yourself with its unusual flavour profile because it lends an umami kick – that somehow deepens and lifts – the heart and soul of snacks and main meals.
Nowadays, black salt features in vegan dishes, like tofu scramble and chickpea omelettes, to mimic the scent and flavour of eggs but if you’re new to it, here are five easy ways to incorporate this volcanic rock salt into your repertoire today:
Shake on fries and snacks
At my grandma’s house in Karachi, the ‘chips-waala’ came to the neighbourhood every day to sell fries from his two-wheeled wooden cart. We’d hear him ringing his bell and then run outside to buy chips covered in spices, black salt and ketchup that tasted ‘chatpatta’ – an Urdu word used to describe food that’s salty, spicy, tangy and sweet in one mouthful. So next time you make fries, tortilla chips or popcorn, sprinkle on some black salt for an easy way to maximise the savouriness with little effort.
Mix into dips
Switch regular salt for black salt when making yoghurt dips like cucumber raita. I mix thick Greek yoghurt with grated cucumber, coarse black pepper and black salt to lend it a deep umami note that complements the cooling freshness of cucumber and mint. To turn this simple dip into a delicious side to have with grilled meat, fish and rice add some bhoondi, which are small balls of fried chickpea flour that you can buy ready-made from Asian supermarkets (soak them in some water for a few minutes first to soften them as you would do with dried mushrooms). Finally, sprinkle more black salt over the top, along with other flavourings, like green chilli, red onions or fresh herbs.
Try it with fruit
Salted caramels and sea salt chocolates are all over supermarket shelves these days but have you ever salted a clementine? My mum used to dip orange segments in black salt before eating them and though it sounds odd, it’s both addictive and refreshing, particularly on juicy fruits like watermelon or pineapple. It’s common in Asian households to add black salt and spices (often combined in a convenient store-bought tangy blend called chaat masala) to fruit salads featuring anything from guava, bananas and apples to pomegranate seeds and mango.
Blend into fruity drinks
For a refreshing, salty pick-me-up make ‘nimbu pani’; squeeze lime juice into a glass of ice water and sprinkle in some black salt along with a pinch of sugar or a few drops of simple syrup made by boiling equal parts sugar and water together. Lemon, orange, and grapefruit work as brilliant alternatives to lime juice too.
Sprinkle over nachos
Sprinkle black salt over loaded vegan nachos to give them a meaty-flavour minus the meat. Simply omit the ground beef and replace with beans (or use meat substitutes like Quorn) along with vegan cheese, jalapeños and guacamole. Pair it with nutritional yeast to maximise the cheesiness too.