Sea salt was not available in the interior of Sarawak. The Iban community like other indigenous communities inland faced health issues related to sodium deficiency. Hence goitre was a common health problem. A common solution in the olden days was to give iodized salt to the patients.
In the coastal areas of Sarawak, where nipah is found, the leaves become the source of salt for the Malays and Melanaus.
Nipah salt was used to preserve, conserve and ferment foods before the coming of refrigeration to Sarawak. Today, modern and cheaper processed salts have threatened the production of nipah salt.
The mature palm leaves are cut and harvested and spread out on mats to dry in the sun for 3 to 4 days. Once dried, the leaves are burned and the ashes collected.
The ashes are then put into a huge wok or kuali of water to boil. This liquid is constantly stirred to help quicken evaporation. Soon the salt solidifies and collects at the bottom of the kuali,forming a cake of salt.
After the cooling period, the salt is wrapped in nipah leaves like in the photo above for storage or for the market.
Nipah salt can be found in tamus in Miri, Bekenu and Bintulu.
Source : Slow Food Foundation for Bio Diversity - https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/ark-of-taste-slow-food/nipah-salt/
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