Salt of the Sea

First of all it was the black salt I bought from an Indian grocery on the Gold Coast. Not black at all but a soft pinkish colour, it intrigued me so much I had to snap it up then, back home, pinch a tiny amount out to scatter over half a tomato. Scent a little like a beef stock cube, and offering no clue to the explosion of glorious, vibrant flavour in my mouth. Later I learnt that Black Salt is a special type of Indian volcanic rock salt: it is known as Sanchal in Hindi and is used in Indian cooking as a condiment.

Then several days later the man I love told me about the bemusement he felt when he noticed a colleague sprinkle salt on a chopped-up apple. This, it transpires, is no less odd than the Thai custom of applying salt to peeled orange segments – and perhaps there is nothing odd in either, salt being renowned, among its many virtues, for drawing out or enhancing flavours. Ah the magical mystery of food!

One local couple who has pretty well elevated salt to an art form is Senaka and Justine Harriman of the company Tridosha. Anyone frequenting markets would know their stall well: they’ve been doing three markets a month for the past decade, specifically Byron Bay, Bangalow and The Channon. Sen meets me in a local cafe and it feels like a private little triumph – on and off over the past eight years I have made attempts to do so without success. It’s not that Sen is elusive, or difficult; on the contrary he is utterly charming but I quickly see ultimately very private, a man who would simply prefer his beautiful products to speak for themselves. As it is he prefaces our meeting by telling me it is his partner Justine to whom I should really be talking. It is Justine who is the ‘fantastic cook, really passionate’, who devises the various recipes, utilising their fancy salts, which come on gorgeously photographed cards. Whereas Sen, who grew up in Sri Lanka, has ‘memories of running through coffee and pepper plantations… a tropical oasis of pepper and mangoes’, Justine had always had a ‘sophisticated appreciation of food’.

Tridosha Salt of the Sea is a range of Australian sea-salt blended with cracked peppercorns, herbs and spices. Its  concept was, Sentellsme, ‘borne out of really humble beginnings, our dinner parties… It’s just something that came from our kitchen table.’ This was in Sydney twelve years ago where Sen was working at SBS as a camera operator and floor manager. He had cooked in restaurants in his teens, and acquired a reputation among friends, later, for his curry nights. ‘That encouraged me’, Sen says, ‘then Justine came up with her idea of creative seasonings.’ When they started the business Sen was employed in two other jobs; they made the move up here, an area where Sen had spent much time when younger, and set about fully establishing Tridosha. ‘There was nothing like it around at the time’, Sen tells me, ‘apart from Maldon – but it was mostly things like chicken salt. We wanted to use sea-salt that wasn’t bleached or refined. And we wanted to make a product that made as minimal an environmental impact or footprint as possible. Twelve years ago we made the conscious decision to make a sustainable product and we’ve never changed.’

They have a purpose-built space at Bangalow – ‘it’s all to scale, our whole life is to scale’, says Sen, ‘and we manufacture everything we put out there. In our blends we pay homage to various cultures: Thai, Indian, for example… we’ll grow lemon myrtle and native mint and dry them out. We’re so close to our product and presentation.’

Sen cannot speak highly enough of their customers. ‘We kept growing,’ he says, ‘because
of our loyal and receptive audience. To expand would be to deny our reasons for coming up here. We’ve basically grown and determined our growth by our aspirations. Now it’s not so much about expansion, it’s about charting the course and looking for calm waters. My challenge is consolidation at the moment – maintaining customer-base and not growth for growth’s sake. We honour our customers’ intelligence and it informs everything we do.’

For more about Tridosha you can visit their website – or better still, their stall at the markets!

About victoria

Author of the gastro-memoir 'Amore&Amaretti: A Tale of Love an Food in Tuscany', I am a Byron Shire-based food and travel writer, food columnist, cooking teacher, recipe editor and chef. Born in Canberra, ACT, I have a BA in languages although am only really passionate about the Italian one, in which I am fluent, having spent four years in Tuscany in my late twenties, and returning reasonably frequently ever since. Despite that, my partner of many years, a wonderful artist, clothes designer and aged carer, is half-Greek!
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