Taean Distilled Salt

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >
Taean Distilled Salt

Distilled salt was the traditional salt produced in South Korea before the introduction of bay salt. While bay salt is produced from drying seawater in wind and sunlight, distilled salt is created from heating seawater for a long time. It is also called Hwal salt and Yuk salt according to different regions. The production of distilled salt resulted in higher income compared to agricultural farming for many individual, and therefore many engaged in salt production in western costal South Korea.

Originally, seawater was heated in earthenware, and the method of drying salt in mud flats is assumed to have come about after the late 9th century. There are a variety of different regional collecting methods involving mudflats and seawater tides, stemming from the various types of mudflats, locations and tidal differences. Salty water is collected from the mudflats and heated to obtain the final salt. The smooth salt particles have a soft texture, resembling white snow.

The distilled salt is less salty and bitter compared to bay and refined salts, and it even has a slightly sweet taste. The salinity is 80 – 85% in comparison to 99% in refined salt, and the low levels of potassium and magnesium provide the less bitter and sour taste. Moreover, distilled salt contains over 14 times the calcium content of bay salt. This increases the effects of lactic acid fermentation, making the salt perfect for preparing fermented foods such as kimchi or soybean paste. Distilled salt helps to keep the original consistency of cabbage leaves, therefore creating a long lasting crunchy texture in kimchi.

A temple named Seonunsa in southwestern South Korea holds an old legend that the founder Monk Geomdan passed on the knowledge of creating distilled salt to the local population, who started providing distilled salt every year. This tradition continues on today, where the restoration of the distilled salt tradition has led to a donation festival at Seonunsa twice a year. Salt was also used as an item for sacrifice in the Shinan area, and many villages in the area offered salt sacrifices to spirits for good luck. The production of distilled salt was very active until the end of the 1800s. However, the production decreased rapidly with the import of cheap bay salt from Japan and China. The Japanese colonial empire decided to reform the national salt industry within Korea in the early 1900s with bay salt production. Bay salt was less tasty and proved ineffective in preservation of kimchi and other paste items, and was therefore used only by poor Korean people. Even after Japanese rule ended, in the 1950s a complete conversion to bay salt was recommended because it was more profitable. This led to the near-extinction of distilled salt production. Ongoing land reclamation projects and sea bank construction has also led to the extermination of the mud flats necessary for distilled salt production.

Today, distilled salt from Taean is sold year around directly from producers and online.

Back to the archive >

Territory

StateSouth Korea
Region

Chungcheongbuk-do

Production area:Taean County

Other info

Categories

Salt