Alternatives to salt: how to use other ingredients to replace or reduce the use of salt in the kitchen
SINGAPORE — Tasty cooking with less salt is possible, says chef Edward Chong, who runs the kitchen at Peach Blossoms, a Cantonese restaurant in Singapore’s Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay.
Even before the Health Promotion Board urged Singaporeans to switch to low-sodium alternatives last month, the 39-year-old executive chef was already using less salt in his cooking.
He estimates that in two years, he managed to reduce his consumption of table salt by up to 80%.
He says, “Paying attention to the use of salt allows me to better express the flavors inherent in other products and ingredients.
That doesn’t mean serving bland dishes, he hastens to add. Instead, it derives flavor from high-quality, natural ingredients.
Last year, he dreamed up a kombu broth so flavorful that when using it for dishes like abalone porridge, he didn’t need to add any salt.
He shared the broth recipe, which calls for dried scallops, dried whelks and Japanese kombu, with his wife. The natural umami means she needs less salt and soy sauce when using the broth for dishes such as mee hoon kueh and steamed fish.
Chef Chong says his wife wants their two sons, ages 16 and 13, to eat healthier, but flavor still matters.
According to dietitians, the recommended daily limit for sodium is 2,000 mg, which is equivalent to one teaspoon (5 g) of salt.
Taste buds can be retrained to enjoy low-sodium foods, says Ms. Ong Li Jiuen, 43, a dietary officer at Changi General Hospital.
She suggests trying the taste rehab challenge for a month: choose foods lower in sodium and eat more homemade meals with less salt or seasoning. Use fresh ingredients like vegetables for flavor. Taste buds will adapt, she says, and develop less salt tolerance.
Cooking at home is ideal because you can reduce the amount of salt by using alternatives such as lemon juice and garlic, says Dr. Kalpana Bhaskaran, president of the Nutrition and Dietetics Association of Singapore.
Dr. Bhaskaran, who also heads Temasek Polytechnic’s Glycemic Index Research Unit, suggests leaner cuts of meat as another option to boost flavor while cutting fat.
Herbs and spices also enhance the flavor. Ms. Siew Yu Yao, 27, a dietitian at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, suggests using curry leaves, bay leaves, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, shallot and coriander.