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
¼ 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!