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Phuket Resort Serves Up 17 Types of Salt

January 8, 2014


Salt sommelier Sommai Wooniem breaks beyond the black and white of this snowy seasoning and into a Technicolor world of flavor. By Merritt Gurley

Published on Jan 8, 2014

 




1. Cyprus black lava (in a Himalayan Pink salt bowl), salad and soup.
2. Hiwa Kai Hawaiian sea (also in a Himalayan pink salt bowl), seafood and white meat.
3. Sel gris, fish and salads.
4. Tom yum salt, Thai food and grilled seafood.
5. Kala namak, spicy foods and rich soups.
6. Trapani sea, steak.
7. Bali-coconut and lime salt, halibut and prawns.
8. Himalayan pink, duck and fish.
9. Peruvian pink, grilled chicken.
10. Porcini mushroom salt, steak and salmon.
11. Salish smoked, creamy pasta and baked potatoes.
12. Murray River flake, red meat.
13. Hawaiian Red Alawa Sea, prime rib.
14. Bolivian rose salt, grilled seafood or chicken.

We’ve all heard of wine sommeliers, but salt?

The average person would be hard-pressed to list more than three varieties—sea? kosher? table? Yet salt is the one seasoning we quite literally can’t live without. The human body cannot produce it naturally, and we need it to maintain a fluid balance required to survive, thus we rely on food for our sodium chloride fix. In fact, so valuable is this mineral that there was a time when salt was twice the price of gold, and used as currency—in fact the word “salary” stems from the Latin “salis” for salt. And while we may not go back to being paid in condiments any time soon, salt is making a comeback. Shops like At the Meadow in Portland, Oregon and restaurants like Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in London are investing in high quality artisanal salts, to further enhance the delicate flavors of dishes. Now hotels are catching on and Anantara is adding the job title of salt sommelier to its restaurants worldwide.

Perhaps it was the briny ocean air at Anantara Phuket Villas that inspired Sommai Wooniem to dive head-first into a career in salt at the hotel’s fusion restaurant, Sea.Fire.Salt (phuket.anantara.com). Here, you’ll be gobsmacked by the rainbow of salts on hand. “A simple request to ‘pass the salt’ gets a whole new meaning,” Wooniem says.

There are 17 versions of the ingredient (14 pictured here) at Sea.Fire.Salt., each serving a special purpose and boasting different properties from the earth where it was harvested, including the volcanic-baked red clay in the Hawaiian sea salt, or the 87 minerals and trace elements—such as copper, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron—in Himalayan pink salt. In some cases, further flavors are added, as with the red alder wood-smoked Salish salt and the lime-and coconut-infused Bali salt. Each is designed to complement a particular composition of flavors. “Choosing the right salt can be the most important component of a dish,” Wooniem says. The porcini mushroom salt, for example, pairs well with grilled T-bone steak.

If you’re still picturing a sprinkle of salt on your meal, or pinched into a recipe, get ready for another curveball: At Sea.Fire.Salt., the chef often does the actual cooking on a thick slab of blush-pink salt. “Red snapper infused with lemongrass, ginger and coarse black pepper is baked to perfection on a Himalayan salt brick,” Wooniem explains. “This is the biggest surprise for diners.” And the adventure in alkali doesn’t end with the entrée. For dessert, try the dark chocolate truffles served on a slab of salt, sprinkled with Salish smoked salt, to bring out the earthy flavors of the cocoa.

Next in the shaker at Sea.Fire.Salt? Experiments with Shiso salt: purple in color, powdery in texture, tangy in taste—this salt’s got street cred. Shiso salt has been produced in Japan for thousands of years. That may sound weighty but, you know, just take it with a grain of...

 

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