For as long as I can remember, I recall my parents saying “you need iodine to avoid goiter…” what the heck is goiter, anyway? According to the Mayo clinic site, goiter is “an enlargement of the thyroid gland.” So in our household, iodized salt was a necessary ingredient (even though I did catch mom using plain sea salt in a lot of our food). Apparently, some natural sea salts can contain trace amounts of iodine, after all it is an abundant chemical in the sea… But for some reason, and there is a lot of history about those reasons on several sites on the net, iodized salt seemed like the best place to sneak that much needed mineral into our daily diets. This is similar to the argument that good potable city water should have flouride to help our teeth/bones, and now that everyone is drinking more bottled water, we all hope to get the flouride from our toothpastes instead…
If you have been reading this blog long enough, you will know I am a bit obsessive/compulsive about my salt. I know the base ingredient/chemical behind all salt is the same, and the taste should be the same too, but I am enamored with different kinds of salt and stock at least a dozen kinds at any one time, probably ridiculous I agree, but this is just one of my quirks. The shape of the crystals, the way it reacts with different ingredients, its various colors from black to grey to pink to white, and its source(s) like high up in the Himalayas, has always intrigued me. So on the drive back from Pagudpud, when we spotted several salt vendors roadside, we HAD to stop to buy some salt. It turns out that the local government mandates the addition of iodine to the locally collected and prepared salt. This sea salt is different from the ones directlly evaporated from salt water. Instead, this salt is cooked and the water steamed off, leaving the salt crystals. The salt is incredibly white and incredibly intense.
But I hate iodine added to my salt. It leaves a chemical flavour and if you use a lot of iodized salt, it really makes a difference to the final dish (try making tapa with iodized vs. not iodized salt to taste the difference). So I avoid iodized salt except in the finest table salts used in a salt shaker, and even then I would use that sparingly, instead putting out salt cellars with “good” non-iodized salt when guests are over for dinner. I wonder why the local government would mandate iodized salt when the province of Ilocos Norte is blessed with so much seafood and seafood is an incredibly good source of natural iodine… At any rate, I whispered conspiratorially with the Manang at the stand and she smiled, nodded, gestured to a young kid, and asked me to wait. Someone went off in a tricycle and a few minutes later I had 10 kilos of FABULOUS unadulterated Ilocos sea salt, without a trace of iodine, straight from the factory and just made that morning. Smell a big bag of iodized salt vs. the plain salt and you will always seek out the plain salt. I felt like I was buying contraband, but at PHP100 for 10 kilos of great looking and tasting salt, this was my buy of the day… P.S. This seems like a wonderful salt for a salt enrusted and baked lapu-lapu, yum!
For more salty adventures, check out these previous posts: