In my June 19 column in The Japan Times, I wrote about moshio, a salt made from seaweed. And in an earlier post, I mentioned an adventure I didn’t explain. Things came together so I’ll share that adventure now.
In May, I went to the town of Shiogama in Miyagi Prefecture. Just before I left I heard someone there makes seaweed salt, which I’d just gotten a question from a reader about. It was too late to track it down, and I was going on other business anyway. But when I found myself with a little time, I dropped by the information center:
It was a weekday morning. Real quiet. Just the information lady and a local guy shooting the breeze. But when I asked about salt, the lady turned to the man and said, kono hito desu! (“Here’s your guy.”) Turns out he’s Mr. Moshio himself, Oikawa Fumio 及川文男 of the Ganbare Shiogama salt cooperative. Next thing I know I’m in his car and we’re driving to see the salt.
First he showed me the seaweed, which is called hondawara （Sargassum fulvellum）:
Then the huge cauldron where he cooks up the concentrate:
One more cook in a smaller pot and you’ve got salt.
Sometimes the salt forms in huge crystals he sells as “shio no hana” 塩の花 (salt flowers). There’s a month-long waiting list for these.
Local chocolateur Cleauventerre puts them on top of handmade chocolates. I paid 350 yen for one of their little moshio chocolat 藻塩ショコラ. Yum!
You can buy moshio at various specialty shops in Japan, or you can get it online from Amazon Japan by clicking these links: Awajishima Moshio 120g, Kamagari Moshio (Hiroshima Pref.) 100g, Tsushima Moshio (Nagasaki Pref.) 120g. This package of the Tsushima salt has a little English, which might make a nice gift for friends overseas:Japan Salt 和の藻塩 120g
If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese salt, and by now I hope you are, I highly recommend this video about another traditional way to make salt, the agehama enden. The video is in English and was made by the United National University in collaboration with Ishikawa Prefecture. It shows a working salt terrace on the Noto Peninsula.