Kala Namak is a manufactured salt. It is also called Himalayan Black Salt, Bire Noon (Nepalese), Sulemani namak and other names. Known as a black salt, it has a pinkish color in powdered form from the pink salt used in its manufacture. It has a black or dark purple look when it is still in rock form before it is crushed.
It has a characteristic pungent, sulfuric smell and a taste like hard-boiled eggs. It is used in vegetarian and vegan recipes where the flavor of egg is desired. It is also used in many Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese and other South Asian recipes for the flavor.
Records of Kala Namak go back several thousand years to around 300 BCE where there is a written record of it being used as an Ayurvedic medicine. No one really knows the origin of the salt or how the process developed, but is been an important ingredient in Indian cuisine and has been gaining popularity especially among vegetarians, vegans and those with egg allergies but want the egg flavor in their recipes.
The raw salt used for the production of Kala Namak is traditionally mined in the pink salt mines in Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. To a lesser extent they use salt from inland salt lakes. As a manufactured salt, the process and spices used are family secrets. The resultant salts all have the familiar eggy smell and taste due to the hydrogen sulfite which occurs naturally in the salt when heated to over 1000 degrees. The raw salt along with spices, which can include harad seeds, amla, bahera, babul bark, natron or others, is sealed in ceramic containers and fired for about 24 hours. The salt becomes molten and the spices burn away, leaving the characteristic black chunks when cooled. It is then sold in chunks or ground to a fine powder where it has its pink color.
Kala Namak is used in South Asian cuisines of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh as a condiment. It is used to season meats, vegetables, fruits and salads. It is also used to make Chaat Masala, which is a spice blend to season fruits and vegetables.
The distinctive flavor adds its own flavor to chutneys and many other savory Indian snacks, including raita. Raita is like a Chaat masala yogurt and cucumber dip, but is actually more of a condiment. There are many variations using fruits, raw vegetables where Kala Namak is used to flavor them. Raita is eaten with naan, other flat breads, chutneys or pickles.
There are many dishes where you want the flavor of eggs but don’t want to eat eggs, like in vegan recipes, or might have an allergy to them. A sprinkle of Kala Namak adds that egg flavor. You’ll find many recipes for Tofu Scrambles, Eggless Omelettes, Eggless Egg Salad, and Quiches, all using the salt for the egg flavor. Even try a sprinkle on your popcorn.