We round up some expert tips on the best ways to season your food, and what with, if you want to impress guests
The new Gourmet Station sells nine different types of salt. Who knew there were so many to choose from? Luckily, Dubai has its very own salt expert. Chef Andrew Zarzosa, who uses more than a dozen varieties at his restaurant, Hunters Room & Grill, helps us tell the difference.
1 Cornish sea salt Dhs27.50 for 250 grams What it is: Salt hand-harvested from the Cornish Sea, 8m from clear, Grade-A classified water.
Flavour: Mild, with a light touch of mineral. The flaky texture makes it melt on the tongue.
Chef Andrew says: ‘This salt is really cool. Its flakes make it very versatile. You can shake it on whole for a rougher texture or grind it between your fingers for something milder. It’s a good all-around salt. It’s also very affordable. As a chef I would use this at home on everything.’
2 Terre Exotique: Diamant de sel et sa sape (diamond salt with grater) Dhs76 for 270 grams
What it is: Pink salt mined from the Himalayan Mountains in Kashmir.
Flavour: Incredibly intense, with a strong mineral flavour.
Chef Andrew says: ‘This is a very intense salt, and comes in big chunks of rock. Sometimes it comes as a big, pink brick. This salt is good for curing your own meat, or if you want to make a jerky. If you want to dry-age your own meat, you can rest it directly on the salt and it will absorb all the moisture from it, and from the room as well.’
3 Tibetan Pink Himalayan Crystal Salt Cubes Dhs78 for 200 grams What it is: Pink salt mined from the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet
Flavour: Like the terre exotique, this salt is intense with a strong mineral flavour, but is easier to handle
Chef Andrew says: ‘This salt comes in little crystals, shaped like unrefined diamonds. It’s similar to the Terre Exotique, only you can season it directly onto your food. Due to the high mineral content, it’s going to have a very strong taste, and you want to use it in moderation. It’s good for strong meats, such as game, and for pickling and stews, but you want to be really careful to not use it too aggressively.’
4 Bali Beach Sea Salt Dhs44 for 250 grams What it is: Salt harvested from the seas around Bali, a town with over 1,000 year’s experience in making salt.
Flavour: Somewhat sweet, with hints of the ocean and a fluffy texture.
Chef Andrew says: ‘Sea salt from Bali comes in a cool pyramid shape. When used whole, it has a really nice texture. It’s great as a finishing salt. Use it to season a roast after it’s out of the oven. It’s also really nice with steamed vegetables, especially asparagus, or anything soft that doesn’t have crunch on its own. With a little extra virgin olive oil, it makes a nice dish.’
5 Smoked Viking salt Dhs68.50 for 225 grams What it is: Salt made from ocean water evaporated over a bonfire
Chef Andrew says: ‘This is probably my favourite salt. We use it at Hunter’s and it’s become the most popular salt. People buy it directly from us they love it so much. This salt is really good on a lot of things. I put it on my tartar. It’s also great with potatoes, or steamed or smoked fish. You don’t want to use it on anything grilled, though, as grilling will already give your food a smoky flavour.’
6 Guérande Fleur de Sel Dhs49.50 for 250 grams What it is: Young crystals that form naturally on the surface of ponds in the Guérande region of France.
Flavour: Moist with a hint of mineral
Chef Andrew says: ‘This is a nice, moist sea salt. It is one of the oldest in France, and they use wooden hand rakes to harvest it. It takes a long time and, therefore, it’s very expensive. It has a nice crunch and is really good for making outer crusts on meat or fish. We use it on all our steaks.’
7 Tibetan Classic Highlight salt Dhs138 for 250 grams What it is: The purest salt in the world, mined from the Himalayan mountains.
Flavour: Delicate, subtle and pure.
Chef Andrew says: ‘This would be mined at the same time as the pink Tibetan salt. It’s sandwiched between the pink layers, so it’s protected from minerals, and tastes very pure. This salt is in a mountain deep, deep, deep. It’s like a still frame of history. It dates back to the days of the dinosaurs, when there were no pollutants in the air. All that goodness is frozen in time, millions of years later. This salt really brings out the natural taste of whatever it is you’re trying to season. But really it’s what you break out when you want to impress someone, and it makes a great conversation piece at a party.’ Hunter’s Room & Grill, The Westin Dubai (04 399 4141). Gourmet Station, The Oasis Centre (04 515 4050).