I made the mistake of buying a so-so watermelon recently. It weighed over 8 pounds and looked decent on the outside but was flabby tasting on the inside. Watermelon, unlike other melons, does not ripen further after harvest. I was stuck with it. My husband wanted to throw it out and start over.
Wait, I said, let’s try some chile salt on the melon and see if we can perk up its taste. Fruit (melon, papaya, mango, pineapple, tart apple) and vegetables (jicama, cucumber) are often enjoyed with chile salt in tropical Asia; Latins share the same foodway. The result is a certain refreshing sweet heat on the palate.
I’d bought the following jars of chile salt. One is Vietnamese and the other is Latin (I got it while I was in Texas).
While both had salt, sugar, chile powder, and citric acid, the Trechas brand included colorant and preservative. I’d had the Viet one around for a year and it had changed color. However, the Viet one had more salt than sugar and a delicate tang and heat that sparked up the watermelon nicely. I liked its taste on its own. The Trechas was tangy more than anything else and lacked a pleasant flavor.
The winner was the Viet bot muoi ot (literally powdered salt chile). Then I wondered if I could make my own blend. This is what I came up with:
Bot Muoi Ot
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon sour salt* (citric acid), ground with a mortar and pestle
Mix it all together and taste with your fruit. You can always tinker with the proportions, depending on your seasonings and personal preferences.
*What is sour salt? It’s simply citric acid that you can get at a supermarket. I’ve had this jar of it for years.
I use sour salt for making the sugar syrup that goes into moon cakes. Citric acid can be used to prevent foods from turning brown. You could add a bit to a basil pesto or green chutney to prevent it from darkening. Citric acid is another term for Vitamin C. A little citric acid goes a long way as it’s just SOUR. So if you play with it, go slow. For this recipe, I ground up the sour salt into a white powder so it would commingle well with the other ingredients. If you use sour salt or citric acid, what do you do with it?
No sour salt around? Add a squirt of lime when you’re eating the fruit with the chile salt.
A little chile salt is a great accompaniment to summer’s bounty of fruit. I’d try it on a good watermelon too!
- Thai Melon Salad (watermelon and a crazy good fish sauce, lime chile, and peanut sauce)