The round, rich flavors of Amabito No Moshio (literally, "ancient sea salt") are due to the presence of ample trace minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, etc.) But most striking by far is the extraordinary quality of umami (旨み、旨味、うまみ) or xiānwèi (鮮味 or 鲜味) in Chinese, that comes from the unique techniques used in its production. (Umami is one of the five basic tastes increasingly recognized by American foodies. Umami means "savory" or "meaty," and results from glutamates especially common in protein-rich foods such as meats and cheeses.)
NEW! Try this salt as part of a Japanese Finishing Salt Set or Japanese Benefit Set (all proceeds to benefit Mercy Corps's relief efforts in Japan)
The salt is very dry, with small but complexly articulated crystals of a luxurious beige color that complement its flavor beautifully. Amabito No Moshio is also great as a cooking salt, in light soups and sauces where the delicate sea salt contributes to both aromas and flavors.
We have used Amabito No Moshio as a finishing salt to great effect on fish, rice, roasted potatoes, pasta, red meat, pork. Then there was our dinner party where we dusted this sea salt across the surface of a chocolate soufflé. We were dazzled. The savory, unctuous salt actually brought out sweetness and lurking fruit flavor in the bitter dark chocolate soufflé.
Moshio is the earliest known sea salt produced by the Japanese, dating back to nearly 2,500 years ago. Although Japan is surrounded by sea water, the country's humid, rainy climate has never been well suited for large-scale production of dry salt. It takes 10 tons of seaweed-infused water to make just 200kg of this ancient sea salt.
In the good old days, many Japanese made do with salt-ash, which they produced by spreading seaweed on the beach to dry between storms, rinsing the plants in an isolated saltwater pool, and then boiling the brine with bits of remaining seaweed in a clay pot over a wood fire to evaporate the water, crystallize the salt and reduce the seaweed pieces to ash. This salt-ash mixture, moshio, became the staple salt of the region.
Today the production of ancient moshio continues. Our Amabito No Moshio ancient sea salt is a finishing salt that is somewhat refined by modern production methods. Unpolluted salt water collected from the Seto-uchi Inland Sea is left in a large pool to stand for a while, evaporating some of the water and saturating the salt solution. Hon'dawara seaweed is then added to the salt water for infusion of its flavor and color.
After some time the seaweed is removed and the salt water is transferred to and cooked in a large iron pot until it gradually begins to crystallize, becoming a mass resembling a chunky sherbet. This is then put into a centrifuge to extract more water. The last step in the process is to cook the salt mass in a large pot over an open fire stirring continuously with a large wooden paddle. This removes almost all moisture and the salt becomes tiny, free-flowing granules.
Our Amabito No Moshio is made on the tiny island of Kami-Kamagari in the Seto-uchi Inland Sea (a body of water separating Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū, three of the main islands of Japan) of Hiroshima Prefecture in Western Japan. It is one of 3,000 such small islands in Japan. The population is also tiny--a mere 2,777 according to the latest census. In 1984 archeological digging revealed an ancient (3rd to 4th century AD) salt-making pot. This find encouraged the locals to re-produce the historic ancient gray sea salt in 1998.
The Seto-uchi Inland Sea (瀬戸内海) region is known for its moderate climate, with a stable year-round temperature and relatively low rainfall levels.