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Forum Thread - How to reduce salt in curry preparations

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Ron, on 23/4/2016 10:29pm

Hi Mamta!

First I would like to say thank you for contributing such a great, authentic and varied resource for all of the classic cooking I grew up with!

My goal is to use as little salt as possible (2.5g sodium a day) but still have my food taste like it does when you get it from a restaurant - so good that you don't need to add any extra salt. Is this realistic, or is it really the case that restaurants go overboard on the salt/fat/sugar etc,..?

I've more or less mastered the basic curry sauce preparations and when my masalas are ready I can usually make them taste pretty good with about 1tsp/5ml of salt (most recipes call for as much) and no added water. However, almost always, when I add the cup of dal or beans to the masala, I have to add at least another tsp of salt and then some, especially if I add water.

A little bit of background: I grew up eating many of the dishes featured on your website prepared by my excellent cook mother. Thing about my mum is though, she never cooks with salt (grew up with a salt-intolerant father) and she always used to make her dishes watery. I personally prefer her watery curries and dals for many dishes - I typically just added my own salt at the end - but in my own preparations it seems that without adding substantial amounts of salt, I can't seem to replicate that flavour.

Any suggestions?


Mamta, on 24/4/2016 07:22am

Hi Mamta!

First I would like to say thank you for contributing such a great, authentic and varied resource for all of the classic cooking I grew up with!

Hello Ron

Sorry for the slow response, I was busy for a couple of days and didn't get much chance to look in!

I also use less salt for when I cook for myself alone.

1. You can cook without salt and then use a little bit at a time, till you are happy.

2. Use low Sodium salt.

3. At home, Indians often make curries and dals that have more/thinner gravy, because traditionally, things are served in little 'katories' or bowls. This custom of eating on a plate, where everything is served together, buffet style, has slowly resulted into making curries with a thicker sauce/gravy. Most T-V chefs also make thicker gravy too and we have all slowly begun to follow them! You can make them as thin as you like.

4. salt does enhance taste. that is the reason why ready made food and chefs food has more salt.

Hope this helps. Someone else may also reply to your questions with a further suggestion.


Kavey, on 29/4/2016 02:31pm

Hi Ron

There really is nothing that can take the place of salt, so it's very much a case of training your palate to need less. One of the things salt does is help accentuate other flavours, so it may be that you can make it less noticable by upping other spices and flavourings just a touch.

The difficulty in retraining the palate is that every time you eat out in a place that uses a lot of salt, you reset the habituation! That said, I do find some restaurants over-salt and that I simply don't need as high a salt level as some people do in order to really appreciate the taste of my food.

No easy answers though, salt is not an ingredient it's easy to replace!

Ron, on 6/5/2016 06:58am

Thanks guys!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with a certain low sodium flavour 'enhancer' (MSG) with some success. MSG is literally found in everything from packaged food to soy sauce and, I'm told, even in a good deal of restaurants. I find it definitely reduces the gross amount of table salt, I'm still working on correct amounts however.

I think a large part of the problem is most of the restaurants and eateries I go to around likely use a lot of salt - and probably MSG - and so I'm accustomed to trying to attain that level. I think for optimal health it might be wise to avoid eating outside and wait to see if my palate returns to its natural state - i'm told it does!

Mamta, on 7/5/2016 07:02am

MSG itself is not fault free and not recommended in daily foods, though it is difficult to avoid in preprepared foods. My daughter Kavey, who is a food critic, will probably be able to tell you more/latest about it. I personally think that it is better to train your taste buds to enjoy less salt/less fat food, especially in your home cooking.

Kavey, on 9/5/2016 03:56pm

MSG got a bad rap in America many decades ago and has never shaken it, even though there is absolutely NO scientific evidence to suggest there are any adverse side effects from using and ingesting it in the small amounts that are usually used in food.

Anecdotal claims that high doses can cause headaches have not been born out in fairly extensive scientific tests at all. Take from that what you will, but I will say that it's very hard for foods that are demonised to shake those negative connotations, even if long since disproven.

MSG is a naturally occuring sodium salt that is found in many foods we naturally think of as umami (savoury) such as mushrooms, parmesan. My understanding is that the stuff produced for sale as an additive is identical, chemically, to the naturally-occuring stuff.

I have absolutely no problem with MSG myself, though of course, I can't give you advice on what you should do, as I'm not a trained scientist or dietician.

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