Pisyu Loon: Uttarakhand’s Traditional Flavoured Pahadi Salts

Salt is such an ingredient without which we cannot have our meals. And interestingly, salt has several colours. For instance, pink salt is available in the Himalayas, blue salt in Iran, black lava salt and grey salt in Brittany. When it comes to artificial varieties, there’s numerous colours and flavours.  

In India, we have quite a few types of salt- the regular one (white), black salt (pink and black), rock salt, etc. And while talking about rock salt, you cannot skip Pisyu Loon (ground salt) available in the quiet hills of Kumaon and Garhwal in Uttarakhand. The flavoured salts have various unique colours and are made by mixing rock salt, mint, ginger, coriander, garlic, cumin, mustard, three types of chilli (yellow, red and green), and fresh herbs and spices in a ‘sil batta’, imparting unique flavours.  

Image Credits: Uttarakhand Foods

Although the origins of these salts are unknown, there are several rumours. For instance, some believe that they came to increase the amount of water people across hilly regions consume. People living in these regions usually do not drink a lot of water, and this salt induces their thirst, making them drink more water.  

Another rumour suggests that they became popular because of the herbs and spices’ digestive benefits, besides the health benefits of rock salt. Whatever the origin of Pisyu Loon, the salts are essential to the life of Pahadi people. During winters, harvests are often low, and vegetables are in scant supply. In these difficult times, the Pahadi people only get to eat bland rotis and parathas, sprinkling some flavourful and vibrant Pisyu Loon.  

These salts are still mainly produced by women in villages of Tehri, Garhwal, Dehradun, Nainital, Haldwani and Khakhrighat, and they have made Pisyu Loon available to the entire country by selling them online, via platforms like Instagram and e-stores such as EjaaFoods and PahariViraasat. The women typically work within self-help groups or NGOs.  

Image Credits: Outlook

As freshly ground ingredients in a ‘sil batta’ add a different aroma, you try out making Pisyu Loon; you need below elements:  

Garlic cloves, red, yellow, and green chillies, rock salt or sea salt, asafoetide (hing), cumin seeds, whole peppercorns and a ginger  

You can add in ingredients like mint, coriander, etc.  

How to make Pisyu Loon?  

  • Start by roasting peppercorns  
  • Put all ingredients except salt into the blender or grind it in a sil-batta   
  • Next, add in rock salt and mix well  

You can use this coarse to marinate meat, temper dal or fish curries, and starchy vegetables. 

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