Surprised? You thought our first article about Kampot would be about Pepper?! Well, nope, we'll start with salt!
Before leaving Sihanoukville, we made contact with Narin Bun, one of the guys we had to get in touch with to discover Kampot's Natural sea salt behind the scenes!
We started with the Salt Fields just outside Kampot city centre. Narin Bun brought us to his farm. His family owns 50Ha (123.5 acres) out of the total surface of around 800Ha (just over 1975 acres). There are 60 owners and 200 producers.
Narin Bun in front of his family farm
Lets go quickly through the different steps of sea salt production. The production season goes from October until the end of April.
First Things First: Irrigation
They start irrigating in October by opening the man-made channels, flooding the salt fields with sea water. In November, they close the dam, leaving the salt pans (rectangular plots of land) under water.
Step Two: Concentration
The next step is the concentration in salt by evaporation. By the end of December, the water remaining in the salt pan reaches 20 to 25 degrees Baumé.
The Baumé scale measures the density of water, showing the level of saturation in salt. At 25 degrees Baumé, a chemical reaction happens in the water, leading to the crystallization of salt.
Step Three: Crystallization
While the crystallization happens, white formations of salt can be noticed in the water. Two types of salt will be created: coarse salt will form at the bottom (it can then be refined and grinded into a powder or left in crystals) & Fleur de Sel (Flower of Salt) will float at the surface, drawing flower-like patterns on the water.
The white part you can see floating on the bottom left of the salt pan is actually "Fleur de sel" (Flower of Salt).
Fleur de Sel is a very delicate finishing salt that is used by chefs all over the world to add crunch to the dishes and enhance flavours.
Step Four: Drying the Salt
The drying process usually ends in mid-January, leading to the start of the harvest season. However, this year (2018), because of the unusual late rain in January, it has been delayed. Harvest should only take place in late February. The harvest season will be shorter this year because the end (April) cannot be postponed due to the start of the next rain season.
Basket used to carry the salt from the field to the mainland
Employee working on the field
Step Five: Washing the Salt
After the harvest, things are far from being over! The next step is washing the salt so it is clean and any mud or sediment is removed from it. Then the salt can be dried again!
Drying the salt in a very dry and warm room
Coarse salt drying
Step Six: Picking the Crystals by Hand
Although it’s been washed, they need an expert eye to remove any dirt that's left, giving the bright shiny white salt we know.
Step Seven: Iodising the Salt
At that stage, the Iodising process can start. Iodised salt prevents thyroidal problems which affect around 2 billion people in the world. The WHO recommends the addition of iodine to the salt in order to distribute this vital nutriment to most populations at a lower cost.
Iodine is naturally present in the Sea but is very volatile once exposed to the air. To keep your salt iodised for longer, remember to seal the bag properly after use.
Ta dah! Only one last step remains: the packaging! During our visit, we noticed that it was done by hand with extreme care by the local workers.
Packaging in 200g
Different Packagings from Narin Bun's company: Thaung
Thanks to Narin Bun for welcoming us !