Kala namak has withstood the test of time, sung of in ancient Vedic hymns, and identified by Maharishi Charak, the 300 BCE father of ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic healers claim this Indian black salt possesses several therapeutic qualities, and use it to pacify the bowels, aid weight loss, combat hysteria, and produce good dental hygiene.
Kala namak ("black salt" in Hindi) is a rock salt infused with sulfurous herbs and spices. As a rock, its color is deep purplish-black; ground, it becomes pinkish-brown; on your food, it takes on the hue of oxblood. It has the taste of sulfur dug from the belly of a slumbering volcano and smells like the breath of a dragon who has filled her belly with hard-boiled eggs.
Kala namak begins its life deep in the mountains of Pakistan as the familiar Himalayan Pink Salt. It is heated to more than 1400 degrees Fahrenheit and mixed with Indian spices, including the seed of the Black Myrobalan tree called harad. In Ayurvedic medicine, the harad fruit is used as part of triphala, an herbal elixir that is used to treat intestinal disorders as well as eye disease and to promote immune system health. The sulfur compounds in the harad’s seeds lend their flavor to the salt and darken its color.
Kala namak brings something unequaled to both traditional Indian dishes and more familiar fare. Sweet chutneys take on a quality of roundedness when spiced with kala namak. Chaat masala, a spice mix used to enhance fried street food (chaat) and fruit salad are traditionally salted with kala namak alongside ingredients like coriander, ginger, chili powder, and cumin. Jal Jeera is a refreshing, minty spicy-sweet summertime drink that calls for kala namak.
Kala namak adapts well to more typical American dishes as well. Once you've had popcorn popped in butter and shaken with finely ground kala namak you'll never go back to Pop Secret; you’ll soon be smuggling in a jar of this salt into the movie theater. Vegans might be interested in using this salt on a tofu scramble to emulate the savory-sulfuric taste of eggs.