Hawaiian Sea Salt
Other Names: Alaea, Alae, Hawaiian Red Salt
Alaea aea salt is a traditional Hawaiian table salt used to season and preserve. A natural mineral called “alaea” (volcanic baked red clay) is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide. This natural additive is what gives the salt its distinctive pink color. The clay imparts a subtle flavor that is mellower than regular sea salt. The clay also adds fineness to the grain.
Uses: It is the traditional and authentic seasoning for native Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua Pig, Poke and Hawaiian Jerky. Also good on steaks, pork loin and grilled vegetables. Hawaiian sea salt can be used in place of regular white salt.
Gathering: Making Hawaiian sea salt is simple, provided you know where to find (or buy) alaea. In the islands, alaea can be gathered from most rocky beaches, like Kuiaha Bay along Maui’s North Shore. Clumps of the red clay run off to the beach and become lodged in the rocks, where the clay washes in the surf and bakes in the sun. I recently gathered a few chunks of alaea from Kuiaha Bay and carried them home in an old, dried out coconut. The clay stains everything it touches red, just like the Red Dirt Shirts, which are a local icon of creative alaea use.
Preparation: Back in my kitchen, I broke the clay into smaller pieces about the size of strawberries and ground into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. A little goes a long way. I mixed the ground alaea with a pound of sea salt, making a gorgeous red salt. I love the mellow, sweet flavor and use it everywhere I would plain salt.
Recipe: Hawaiian red sea salt is so good that it also inspires dishes. My favorite recipe for alaea salt is a simple one, grilled asparagus. Here’s what I do:
- Start with a large bunch of rinsed and trimmed fresh asparagus
- Lay them into a large baking dish (9×12 works well)
- Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar and generously sprinkle Hawaiian sea salt
- Toss and coat all the asparagus
- Fire up the BBQ and grill until tender
- Enjoy them hot