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Delicious salt is made with the natural benefits of ocean, sun and wind at Tarama Kaien Kenkyusho on Tarama Island
post : 2017.01.23 18:00
The unique salt from this facility is made using an all-natural process. The only ingredients used are the sun, wind and of course the sea. Surprisingly, the company uses no artificial heat, fuel or firewood. “All-natural” sounds so easy to say, but in reality, Tarama Kaien Kenkyusho's process is not as simple as it sounds. I wondered what kind of person came up with an idea like this.
I would say there are many unusual people in Okinawa. Perhaps the islands' warm climate has something to do with the prevalence of unique individuals. I flew to Tarama Island from Miyako Island because I heard that there was just such a man who was making 100 percent natural salt.
Who is this natural salt maker? What do his products taste like? I visited Hidenori Nagaoka at Tarama Kaien Kenkyusho, where the friendly craftsman creates his “un-salty salt.”
I took a taste and my first impression was “what is this?” Everything I thought I understood about salt dissolved right there on my tongue. His salt was not sharp at all; it was very mild and sweet. That was a surprising moment.
“Even though I go to the same ocean and collect same amount of water every day, the taste is never the same,” said Nagaoka. “My way of making salt brings out sweetness,” he continued. “I always try for sweetness in salt.” According to him, the secret is in the crystallizing process, which takes three weeks in summer and two or three months in other seasons. It's a slow process, which is done in a tent.
After crystallization, the process is completed under the sun. Nagaoka's salt making follows the theory of “shibugaki riron” throughout. The theory is also used in the creation of other foods, such as dried persimmons, which turn from tangy to sweet under limited sun exposure. “Sweet salt can’t be made if it’s left under the sun longer than necessary because the minerals will leach away with moisture,” Nagaoka said. “I make sure to take a taste every one or two hours to ensure my salt retains its mild sweetness,” Nagaoka said.
Slow evaporation is key—not only to retain the minerals, but also to minimize the “ocean-ness” of the flavor.
“This one is special,” Nagaoka said showing me a sample. “It took six months to complete. It is extremely mild and sweet.” I tried it and found it to be even sweeter than the first one. Amazing.
“I know I can’t make money from making salt,” Nagaoka said. “But I have my own philosophy about it.” When he was in Hong Kong and Vietnam working as a press photographer, he got sick from too much alcohol and was hospitalized for a month. He was treated with a saltwater solution until he recovered. That was the when he started thinking seriously about salt.
During his recuperation period in Kumamoto Prefecture, he decided to start making salt in Tsuujijima, Amakusa, the island famous for dolphin watching tours.
Nagaoka soon began looking toward Okinawa where there are many salt companies. He visited many of these. He then chose Tarama Island, for its pristine ocean (the clarity of which is documented) to start making his salt.
“Some people say salt is good for you,” said Nagaoka. “But too much salt is not good for your health. It's the same with alcohol. Moderation is key in everything,” he said, laughing.
Nagaoka’s popular, kuganimaashu, aged nigarien, the coarse shionohana, seaweed infused kaisouen, wine salt and curry salt are all available at Tarama Airport. Prices are 300 yen for 30g and 700 yen for 100g. Please also try the popular salt coffee. You may even get to meet Hidenori and “talk salt.”
Address: 2351-7 Nakasuji, Taramason, Miyakogun, Okinawa
Hours: Scheduled flight times (airport)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Noriya Fukuda