Asian Flavored Sea Salts

Asian Flavored Sea Salts

from Steamy Kitchen food column in Tampa Tribune

If I had to just choose one thing, “my killer app” in the kitchen, it would be salt. It doesn’t matter what cuisine I’m cooking, salt is the basis of flavor in a savory dish. Call me a salt snob, but I stay away from the regular table salt, mainly because it tastes like crap! The granules are way too fine, the anti-caking agent just sounds gross and added iodine is sooooo 1920’s. The taste reminds me of…um…getting smacked in the face with a salt lick dipped in a vat of bitters?

Normally, I use kosher salt in the kitchen, mainly because of the texture and cheap price. I really like the feel of kosher salt in my fingers as I’m seasoning, and I’ve learned to season by sight, feel and taste. I’m just too lazy to bust out the measuring spoons, because each time, I have to wash and wipe dry the set of awkward, clanging, dangling spoons for fear of tainting the oregano with chili powder or powdered sugar with vanilla extract. How inefficient! Wouldn’t it be cool if spice jars came with twist lids that doled out the spice in teaspoon increments? What a great product idea. And if you steal my idea, at least take me out to dinner. But I digress.

I also use sea salt and serve sea salt at the table. Sea salt is evaporated sea water, and you’d be surprised at how many different types of sea salt there are, Australia’s Murray River pink salt crystals, salt from the tropical salt beds of Bali, grey salt from France and even Hawaiian black lava salt. The colors are naturally occurring and the taste? Imagine standing at the clear, blue water’s edge in the Mediterranean, closing your eyes and letting the crashing waves mist your face. I call that $12.95 for an 8oz vacation!

Normally, because of its price, I reserve sea salt as a “finishing salt” to sprinkle on a dish either at the table or after the cooking process. But guess what I discovered at the market? Affordable sea salt that is shaped and textured just like kosher salt. Look for Alessi Fine Sea SaltAlessi Fine Sea Salt at the market or Pure Ocean sold by Pure Ocean is Kosher certified, if that’s important to you. If you see other brands of sea salt at the market, look at the label and make sure that the only ingredient is salt.

So, now that sea salt is finally affordable enough to play with, let’s take it one step further and talk about combining spices and herbs with sea salt to create flavored salts. One of my favorites is orange and lemon zest, which is perfect for summertime dishes and keeps in a jar for months.

It’s great on any seafood, steamed vegetables or grilled chicken. Cut back on the amount of salt that you normally use during cooking and instead, sprinkle the Citrus Flavored Sea Salt on top of the dish to finish. You can certainly cook with the flavored sea salt, but using it as a finishing salt really lets the flavors sing.

The formula is simple – spice or dried herbs + fine ground sea salt. If you’re using fresh ingredients (like citrus zest) make sure you dry them out in the oven first. Other combinations that work well: Chili powder + lime zest; toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorn or even lavender + mint, which is great on lamb or eggs. If you don’t want to make you own, check out

Fusion Sea Salt from Salt – they have some fabulous fusion flavors like Espresso Brava (great on steaks), Spicy Curry, Vintage Merlot, Chili Verde, Black Truffle, Thai Ginger, Smoked Serrano and Soy Sauce Salt.

Curry Salt

2 teaspoons curry powder + 1/4 very fine sea salt

Make sure you get the “fine sea salt” when working with a powder spice. If you can’t find the “fine” grind, then just throw it in the food processor or spice grinder and pulse a few times. This salt is excellent on roasted cauliflower!

Sichuan Peppercorn Salt

it\'s a berry from a bush - not really peppercorn

Sichuan Peppercorn or Szechuan Peppercorn is really not a peppercorn at all – its a berry from a bush that will make your tongue and lips tingle and numb when you eat them. Yes, its legal. No, you can’t snort it. When you dry-roast the peppercorns, your entire house will smell heavenly…woodsy, citrusy, earthy…so incredibly aromatic

Sichuan peppercorn salt

Dry toast 1/4 cup of Sichuan Peppercorn in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure you don’t burn the spice! It should take about 5 minutes and you’ll see a bit of smoke. Let cool and grind in spice grinder or food processor and combine with equal amount of sea salt.

Sichuan Peppercorn is great in:

Sichuan Peppercorn Roasted Chicken

Grilled Giant Prawns with Sichuan Peppercorn Dipping Salt

Citrus Flavored Sea Salt

Citrus Flavored Sea Salt

2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons orange zest
ΒΌ cup sea salt (fine)

Preheat oven to 200F. Set a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread out the lemon and orange zest. Bake for 30 minutes or until the zest has dried. Combine with sea salt. Store in covered glass jar on counter.

Wow, this stuff is great on just about anything – chicken, fish, vegetables, pork…I use this salt the most in my cooking because it’s just lifts any dish that I make with a bright, cheerful color and fragrance!

Great with carrots:

Honey Ginger Carrots with Citrus Honey Ginger Carrots with Citrus Salt

Matcha Green Tea Salt

1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder + 1/4 very fine sea salt (you may have to grind your sea salt in food processor or spice grinder if you don’t get the fine sea salt)

Matcha or Maccha is Japanese green tea powder made from the highest quality of green tea leaves. Its a stunning and lovely mossy color which makes such a pretty finishing salt, especially if you use a white plate and also sprinkle some directly on the plate. Matcha powder + sea salt + couple pulses in food processor if you are using course sea salt

You know what is so totally divine? Your favorite chocolate truffle or chocolate bar + dip in Matcha Salt. So very different!

Use with dishes that are light in texture and flavor, like eggs, tofu, fish, since this salt’s flavor is more delicate and subtle. It gives a beautiful floral, grassy, sweet and soothing aroma. You can buy Matcha powder at your local Asian market. Sometimes coffee/tea shops will carry as well. But…matcha green tea powder is not the same as green tea leaves. Ask specifically for “matcha powder.” Its a little expensive. I paid $7.50 for 1.4 oz jar at a Japanese market in Los Angeles (which will last me a long time as I only used about 1 teaspoon in my mixture. Don’t get the super-premium stuff, it would be a waste to use the expensive powder for the salts. Buy online at Matcha Green Tea PowderAmazon (this is the brand I got). Use your leftover powder to make:

White Chocolate Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream White Chocolate Matcha Ice Cream.


And if you haven’t read this yet:

“WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD?” Come read the responses from readers – guaranteed to make you laugh!

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Comments 48

  1. Emily

    Jaden, the spice dispensers already exist. There is one on (search “spice dispenser”) that seems to let you select the amount to measure out. My Sainted Mama bought the one we have on QVC, and it came complete with labels, a rack, and plastic pouches of nastiness herbs and spices of questionable origin and date for our convenience.

  2. sharon

    Jaden, I love this post (…and salt)! I’m most interested in the matcha salt since I’ve never cooked with matcha before. I got lost in the aisles yesterday at the Asian grocery so I couldn’t locate any, but will try again at a smaller Japanese market we have.

    The citrus salt would be delicious on anything as you mentioned!

  3. blondee47

    Jaden your sechuan salt since the first time I made it had become a staple in my house and i use it instead of regular salt to a fault

  4. courtney

    I realixed I’m a salt snob too. I ran out Kosher and Maldon at the same time. Not a lick of salt in the house except for some Hawaian Pink. I grabbed the good old Mortons and really felt the diffrence. I will just use it for baking now. I immedialty got my Maldon.These are great ideas to take my salt thing up a notch.

  5. AppetiteforChina

    I once trailed at Per Se and found out waiters have to memorize the names, origins, and flavor profiles of about 20 different types of salt that they give to diners (not all at once, I don’t think.) At that time I didn’t even know there were 20 types of salt in the world.

    I can’t wait to try this. Especially the Sichuan peppercorn one. The flavored salts in packets they sell at supermarkets scare me.

  6. veron

    I like that particular matcha from amazon too. There are some sites that sell premium baking matcha that tastes plain awful.

  7. Suganya

    I recently switched from table salt to kosher. And I have to agree with you that the texture is amazing. And it also takes less amount to salt the dish. I remember your flavored salts the first time you posted about them. I am hoping to making it at least this summer.

    I am searching high and low for Sichuan peppers. What is its Asian name, if I have to ask for it in the Oriental Supermarket?

  8. Mo

    No offense, but Iodized salt is good for you. It may have been developed a long time ago (and Switzerland did it long before the USA did), but it reduces the incidences of hyperthyroidism and other Iodine deficiency disorders. It was celebrated as a triumph of public health innovations as late as just last year by the American Thyroid Association and the Center for Disease Control. It’s been supported by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the US National Academy of Sciences.

    Doesn’t mean you have to cook with it, though, considering how much salt is in the food we purchase anyway.

  9. Ann

    Love this post. I reallllllly have been wanting to get it on w/ some smoked salt – it sounds so perfectly fun. Problem is, I can’t STOP making desserts. I think I could try it in my eggplant dip though – which would be great, since that is a smoky dip. Aren’t salts FUN??!!! πŸ™‚

  10. SteamyKitchen


    All the processed crap I buy already contains enough salt with iodine to fulfill my lifetime’s supply. Iodine comes naturally in milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt. I’d rather get it through foods I already enjoy than to have to endure the lame qualities of table salt.


  11. Sam F

    So does flavored salt really taste much different than the salt+the spice separately? I can see it as a dipping/sprinkling salt, but is it worth it even when used during the cooking process? Can one taste the difference between sechuan salt added early and sechuan + salt added early?



  12. SteamyKitchen

    nope – just makes it more convenient instead of dry toasting itty bitty Sichuan peppercorn each time you need it. If you make a small batch and place it next to your seasonings, you’ll find that you’ll reach for your flavored salts in place of regular salt quite a bit.

  13. Kitt

    Fabulous! Such a good idea. I’ve been using Maldon salt a lot for finishing. It’s perfect on edamame, too.

    You turned me on to furikakakakake, but I also picked up gomashio, which is black toasted sesame seeds with sea salt. A great combination.

  14. Danny

    I was waiting for long time to make Szechuan Peppercorn Roasted Chicken,as we don’t get Sichuan Peppercorns here in Bangladesh.

    Finally I got it in hand yesterday, as a technician came from Beijing to install greenhouses for a project of mine.

    I requested his boss for it, who became a very good friend of mine. She sent me lots of it! And two packs of star-anise too! which is also rare here.

    Tonite I am going to cook it. πŸ™‚

  15. Green Tea Health Benefits

    I love the Matcha and salt idea with chocolate. Will definately have to try it when I get my hands on some Matcha

  16. Artsygal

    Oh dear god… why did I never think of the citrus salt? First think tomorrow morning I’m walking over to the farmers market to get some oranges and lemons for zest. I already have a great piece of fish in my fridge right now – it can go over that.

    I’m right there with you about the weird table salt bit. I bought spanish sea salt crystals (I just went and checked – 20 oz for 9.99!!) and use it in one of those 1 handed peppercorn grinder ball things that are magnetic and stick on my fridge. That 20 oz will probably last me half a lifetime – in 3 years I’ve only used a tiny portion of it! Only time mortons salt is allowed in my home is if massive quantities are needed for some crafty project.

  17. Lisa

    Oh I just bought some new sea salts. I also sent Todd & Diane (WORC) some! You just gave me some great ideas to use Jaden. I can’t wait to see what T&D come up with too!

  18. Psychgrad

    If you put a dish infront of me, I can’t tell what kind of salt it is. But I do like using kosher salt. Love the flavour combinations!

  19. Dani

    Hooray for extolling the virtues of good salt. Some great flavours there I will be tring. So have you got the Murray salt yet and if so what did you think? It’s still my hands down favourite.

  20. Mike

    Suddenly, my spice rack feels inadequate what with the meager one jar of plain old kosher salt. I’ll have to toy around with some of these ideas.

  21. Single Guy Chef

    Hey Jaden, I love the idea of salt and szechwan peppercorns. That’s such a perfect Chinese salt for those prawns. BTW, I’ve tagged you with a meme about your Top 10 Favorite Food Photos. I hope you’ll do this because I’d love to hear what makes a photo your favorite. I know you have a lot to choose from! πŸ™‚

  22. Kathy

    A couple of weeks ago, here in the UK, one of the Sunday newspapers listed the most coveted storecupboard ingredients of top chefs. It was interesting how many listed ‘Maldon salt’ as one of their ‘must have’ items. It obviously makes a huge difference using the right product. I use those crystals you put in a grinder like peppercorns, but not sure what they are (sea salt I think). Maldon is on my shopping list!

    p.s. anyone know what’s happening with the recipe testing? I haven’t heard anything for about a month…

  23. cookinpanda

    Wonderful, inspirational ideas! I never considered something like citrus salt. It’s really intriguing. I’d imagine it being quite good on more than just carrots…

  24. Liz Longenecker

    When I was living in New Orleans, I had a friend who told me, proudly I might add, that she never used salt. I was aghast… but, being the extremely polite person that I am, I did not tell her how deeply saddened I was by the obvious misery of her poor dinners ;P

    Seriously, though, salt is soooooo important. It doesn’t just make things taste better… it makes things taste more like they’re supposed to! It’s like magic. Your site is so awesome, because I learn something new with every post. Now I can take salt even further!


  25. meeso

    I love to try different salts, and these are definitely different… What a great bunch of ideas and flavors!!!

  26. amy purple

    Oh, i want to get some fancy salts too! The Honey Ginger Carrots with Citrus Salt recipe sounds great! I’ll have to give that a try for the husband’s lunch sometime soon!

  27. Cakebrain

    I’m going to have to try making my own flavoured salts now. This was an inspirational post for me. I already have 8 different types of salt sitting in my cupboard but none of them are flavoured; they’re all those gourmet types like Pink Himalayan, Fleur de Sel, kosher and Maldon salts. I’m thinking of doing the matcha salt and a ground black sesame salt…hm.

  28. The Urban Eater

    Look at your swanky new gigs! Looks beautiful daaaaaaarling!
    So, I hear there are some photos taken at a certain food and wine festival that I must see???????

  29. White On Rice Couple

    Great article, it’ll get everyone out to use flavored salts more! We’ll have to try the matcha one.
    We’ve got tons of home made stuff that is VITAL in sprinkling over our popcorn! Yumm, every time we make a batch of popcorn, the salts add so much exciting flavors to our humble popcorn. It’s an addicting snack.

  30. Lynn

    What an education. This is a great article. I appreciated the recommendations on how to use the salt. It was a real education on the wide assortments that ared available. I can’t wait to try the citrus flavor, it looks so refreshing. The food photography was excellent.

  31. Hepcat

    Your post has inspired me to go to Penzey’s (a dangerous place!) to buy more sea salt and some nice spices to try as flavors. Knowing my hatred for zesting citrus, I bought their dehydrated version — should I grind that before mixing it in with the salt? They also recommended lavender, so I’m going to mix up a batch of that — I haven’t yet decided whether to grind the flowers and mix in, or make a muslin bag (I know I have some muslin around here somewhere…) and put them in a jar together for a couple of weeks.

    I also dropped in to another addictive place, the Tuesday Morning store, where I found a set of three jars of sea salt marked down to $2! Hawaiian, Mediterranean and Pure Sea Salt. This should get me on a cooking binge again.

  32. Mei

    I love sichuan peppercorns & using it to flavor salt is a great idea. Can’t wait to try that to roast chicken. Thank you for sharing this.

  33. Murasaki Shikibu

    Sichuan peppercorns…mmmm…. I’m waiting for a friend of mine to bring me some from LA. I think I’ll make the Sichuan Peppercorn Salt – thanks for the recipe it’s great. πŸ™‚

  34. Tampa Cheryl

    Jayden, looking back at past posts for ideas I stumbled across this one today. I quickly located the Alessi Fine Sea Salt at the market and made the citrus salt. Wonderful. Now to find Sichuan peppercorns for my next adventure. As a near life long Kosher salt user I’m finding it hard to get used to the new texture as I salt by hand-feel.

  35. Vicki (piggledy)

    Hi, Jayden – about measuring spoons – I think I’ve solved the problem. I have four or five sets, and removed them all from their little chains and loops, and popped them into a itty bitty crock that lives on my counter, along with my utensil crocks. If and when I find myself at a rummage sale, I grab any measuring spoons I find, because I like to have a whole bunch, so I’m not washing them throughout a long cooking session. So, just find the size you need in the little crock, use it, and put it in the sink with the other dishes to be washed when you’re done. So easy, and no more martialing a set of spoons with a teaspoon covered with honey, until I need the other spoons in my recipe. Hope that helps – it is one of the tips I’ll add to my blog, once I get it launched!

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