2 more reasons to cut back on salt (at least in China)

Eating and drinking in China is always somewhat of a gamble. What with meat being injected with illegal additives, fruits and veggies coated with deadly chemicals, artificial brand-name wine, fake eggs and soysauce, fresh milk fluffed up with scrap leather protein, oil skimmed off garbage bins, and so forth, no matter how much we actually want to believe, we are probably wagering our health against increasingly unfavorable odds. If anyone’s counting, we now have something else to add to the endless list: salt.

Salt has long been attacked for causing various health problems, which has led to some awareness that we should watch how much we consume, but, as with seemingly every single food ever to be put in the spotlight, there is a host of other researchers claiming otherwise—that it poses no health risk to the general population. Whatever your salt practice has been up to this point, there are now two more reasons to cut down. The first being the phenomenon of poisonous industrial salt being packaged and sold as table salt. (It’s actually not that new and not limited to China: Taiwan also had a salt scandal back in 2009.) Shanghai Daily advises us to “purchase salt in supermarkets” (as opposed to… on the street?), but who knows if that safeguards us against anything (considering supermarket veggies have been found to be more pesticide-laden than vegetables sold at wet markets)?

And even if we wanted to, as of today it is no easy task. Due to assumptions that the iodine in salt could protect against radiation from Japan and that the radiation falling into the sea would affect salt safety in the near future, people in China have been making a mad dash for the salt aisle since yestereve, leading to salt being sold out in numerous supermarkets around Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other cities. Here are some pictures of the madness. Which brings me to the second reason: whether or not these dubious radiation salt claims are true, with salt prices skyrocketing and none to be found on the shelves anyway, it’s the perfect time to start conserving!

Instead, stock up on other handy, delicious, and versatile seasonings, such as:

  • basil (13.3 RMB/10g at Carrefour)
  • paprika (13.9 RMB/35g at Carrefour)
  • roasted sesame seeds (black or white, I prefer black—delicious on anything) & pure sesame oil
  • cumin (goes for around 6 RMB/bottle)
  • garlic powder (or better yet, minced garlic)
  • oregano
  • dill
  • red pepper flakes
  • MRS. DASH or other multi-vegetable/herb seasoning. Have yet to find a good one over here, but I’ve been using Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute bought on my US trip last Nov. and rationed, but it’s almost all gone :(
  • all kinds of SAUCES! In any remotely Asian dish, soy sauce would be the obvious salt replacement (but watch out for the alleged human-hair infused brand if you’re in China), but oyster sauce, bean sauce, and all kinds of chili sauce also bring lots of flavour to a dish. They all, of course, contain salt as an ingredient and have lots of sodium, so not good if you’re cutting back for health reasons.

  • The government is urging people not to panic (as governments tend to do), so maybe this salt craze will blow over as quickly as it began. It was definitely the talk of the office though; one coworker’s mom had bought 4 bags before noon. With radiation masks being sold out two days ago and salt companies’ stocks going way up, at least some people are having a good week.


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