A world-class indigenous salt production site
Many may not know this, but there are some speculations regarding the reason why the region of Thailand also locally known as Isan has been prospered with a massive quantity of ancient rock salt. Some theorized that the region used to be submerged in the ocean during the prehistorical period. Meanwhile, some also theorized that instead of an ocean, the region was a house of a massive saline lake. Regardless, the region has been supplying its rock salt both domestically and internationally. As a matter of fact, some rock salt from a particular salt-producing site of this region even got acknowledged as one of the world’s best salts to be used in fermentation; a part of people even says that the salt from the source is only second to Japan’s Okinawa salt. The salt-producing site that has been producing the world-class salt is nowhere else but Bo Huahaed, located in Tha Sa-at, Seka District, Bueng Kan.
A Saline Lake, Crystalized into Salt and Minerals
Since the land of Isan was once housed a massive quantity of saline water, it wasn’t far-fetched that much of saline may evaporate, creating various sediment of minerals, salt included. After a long while, the mount range Phu Phan rose, transforming the region into a plateau. As the process went on, the salt and other mineral sediments were processed and crystalized into a pile of rock salt under the surface of the region.
During the old days, Isan residents utilized their salt resource in food fermentation, especially making pla ra (a condiment made by fermenting fish, rice bran, or roasted rice flour, and salt in a closed container). Even though the old way of producing salt is not commonly practiced by most Isan residents anymore, there is one ancient salt well which is still being used in authentic salt production from the villagers, and the well is called Bo Huahaed, a salt well that has served its purpose for centuries. Not only the salt is produced from an ancient source, but the production is also only being able to conduct during a dry season in November since it is the only time that the water body covering the well will decline in volume, allowing a person to fetch some saline from the underground source.
To make some salt from Bo Huahaed, a person needs to dig 40 meters from the surface before reaching the saline source. Then, the saline must be boiled using firewood for 8 – 12 hrs so the salts crystalize. The villagers will make the best out of a dry season, authentically producing salt till the rain is back again. In other words, the place won’t produce any salt during May – July, which consequently makes Bo Huahaed rock salt a very limited condiment.
Every salt produced here have a magnificent cube-shape, especially the fleur de sel ones which have a shape of a pyramid; that one taste very great, providing satisfying saltiness that fade-away quickly like a firework, allowing you to make a fermented food with blissful tastes, just as the ancient Isan folks had been doing in the nostalgic past.
The Legend of Kham Daeng and His Haed (Rhinoceros) Hunting Quest
Once upon a time, in Sakon Nakhon, there was a very influential and powerful man called Kham Daeng. One day, while Kham Daeng was hunting for a rhinoceros, he cornered the miserable beast at Songkhram Riverside. He killed the beast and buried its head underground. Three days had passed since he buried the beast’s head, he discovered that the head was completely well-preserved, so he theorized that it must be due to the salt contained in the soil. He decided to dig deep into the ground and discovered a saline water source. It wasn’t long until the villagers heard about this discovery and decided to use the source to produce their salt. Since then, the villagers have held Kham Daeng in extremely high regard, not just as the discoverer of this wonderful gift of nature, but also ascending him as the guardian spirit of the village; Each year, during the third day of a new moon in the third month, the villagers will partake in a ritual and pray to his spirit, asking him to bestow them some protection.
For that reason, Bo Huahaed is not just an authentic salt production site that provides the world with perfect salt for food fermentation, but it is also a sanctuary for some villagers who continue to worship Kham Daeng as a guardian spirit to this day.