The etiquette for adding salt to a chef’s dish differs around the world, but there are some cultural commonalities and with the growing use of Himalayan salt, the rules are changing.
Do not season your food before tasting it
You should not salt your food before you taste it, this is considered rude no matter where in the world you are. It suggests that you’ve looked at the chef’s offering and decided already, before even taking a bite, that it must be bland, boring, flavourless and in desperate need of seasoning.
Often chefs –particularly serious chefs – have very specific meal blueprints in their mind. Each course, serving, and type of food has its own role, all of which are meant to work together to produce a certain effect. Perhaps, upon first inspection some food looks to be under seasoned. It very well may be slightly bland, at least on its own. But this could be part of the chef’s design. For example, that “unflavoured” piece of lamb might be intended to be eaten along with mint and pea stuffing.
Throwing salt on your meal is insulting because it not only suggests that the food is subpar or flavourless, but also that you think the chef doesn’t know what they are doing. In some circles salting your food prior to tasting it is considered arrogant.
For practical reasons, it is also a foolhardy to salt your meal before tasting it. It could very well end up that despite your assumptions the food is already adequately seasoned and salted.
Some cooking methods actually disguise the use of salt in the meal. Himalayan salt is rapidly becoming one of the most popular seasoning methods for modern chefs because it has a mild and refined salt flavour, and is usually used in the cooking process, resulting in a subtle salt flavour without using visible crystals.
Himalayan salt steak
Himalayan salt steak is the perfect example of a meal that might appear at first to be completely unseasoned, but in actuality has been flavoured expertly with Himalayan salt.
To cook a Himalayan salt steak the chef will first heat the slab of Himalayan salt. These slabs are usually pink or sunset coloured, and about 8 inches wide, 8 inches long and 2 inches thick. The chef then places the Himalayan salt slab directly over a heat source – usually either a stove or barbeque.
After slowly heating the slab up to about 500 degrees, they place the steak on the salt slab.
Usually chefs will not season the steak beforehand, although some may add oil or pepper before cooking.
The heat transfers through the Himalayan salt and grills the steak perfectly, while imbuing unique flavour qualities to it. Himalayan salt adds a natural salt flavour (as you might expect) but in a measured way with much greater subtlety and depth of flavour than the table salt we are used to in North America. Other minerals also transfer from the slab to the meat, giving it a wonderful and unique flavour.
Similar cooking methods using Himalayan salt will disguise the salt, so you might not see salt crystals on your meal, but the food will still have a unique, subtle flavour of seasoning.
Serving on a Himalayan salt slab
Himalayan salt slabs are also often used instead of plates as unique serving dishes. So before you reach for the salt, make sure that you aren’t eating off of it! Instead of salting your food, if the chef serves you a meal on a salt slab, rub your food on the slab to flavour your bites!
Parting word of caution, adding salt your food can often be a major faux-pas, particularly if you haven’t even taken a bite yet. You should always try to trust the chef’s method – which is especially easy when cooking with Himalayan salt!