We're big fans of searing, chilling, and serving on a Himalayan salt block for an extra special way of impressing dinner guests. But even cooler than the salty kick they imbues into food that is the backstory behind them. It's time for history class.
Himalayan salt blocks come from the Khewra Salt Mine of Pakistan, the second largest mine of its kind in the world. Thought to have first formed more than 600 million years ago when the sun dried up a prehistoric ocean, the mines were discovered during the 4th century when Alexander the Great’s army horses strangely gathered in certain areas and would lick the ground.
The horses' liking for the ground didn't go unnoticed by Alexander’s soldiers, and the salt trade began. As the region changed rulers – from the Mughal empire, to the Sikhs, and eventually, imperial Britain – the mine expanded, and its salt moved around the globe.
(Sort Of) Recent Events
Though the salt itself formed over many millennia in certain areas surrounding the Himalayas, mining the stuff is a relatively recent innovation. And it’s done the hard way: down a dark and long mineshaft, at great cost, and with tremendous human effort.
The earliest known human use of Himalayan salt blocks dates back to around the 16th century, when a chunk of the translucent pinkish salt broke from within a mine and was then carved into food-bearing blocks and other household items by the locals at the time. Now, luckily, they're a lot easier to come by.
History in the Making
The history of the Himalayan salt block is still being written, since they've only been introduced in the United States over the past few decades. What we now understand, though, is that the many best aspects of cooking on a salt block are due in large part to the way salt’s crystal structure holds in heat for a sustained period. The result: excellent heat distribution and retention, letting you sear a hard crust quickly and evenly onto whatever you're about to eat.
So the history of Himalayan salt blocks started way, way back in the day and way, way deep in the earth, and now continues above ground and in your kitchen.