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Argentina Asado Encounter 04
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

This way of cooking takes between five to 8 hours, the most the best.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 05
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

This way of cooking takes between five to 8 hours, the most the best.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 06
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

A piece of meat is placed on stakes near the fire. Between 5 to 8 hours it will be done, the most the better.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 07
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

Asadores chat and prepare appetizers and garnish while the asado is slowly cooked. This way of cooking takes between five to 8 hours, the most the best.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 01
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

This kind of meetings are filled with humour, a necessary ingredient since asadores spend hours taking care of the meat while it cooks.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 08
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

This gatherings are usually done as part of folklore fairs or national celebrations, and summon lots of people that wait to buy and taste a piece of asado.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 09
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

Big pieces of meat, sausages and even bread are placed near the fire. The type of wood and the smoke make for a very particular taste.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 10
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

An asador checks how it's going. There are a couple of hours ahead yet, and people are already gathering to get their piece.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 11
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

An asador throws "salmuera", a combination of water, oil, salt and all kinds of condiments unique to every cook, a secret recipe that most of them will only reveal to those who will continue their tradition.

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Argentina Asado Encounter 12
Rosario
By Patricio Murphy
19 Jun 2013

Beside burnt logs, a piece of meat is almost done.

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The Azerbaijani Army Today (5 of 20)
Agdam, Azerbaijan
By Tofik Babayev
18 Jun 2013

Soldiers gather to eat their rations together in Agdam, Azerbaijan, June, 2013.

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Salt of the earth 025
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
17 Jun 2013

Huang Jingfei, 35, gathers corn husks on the upper level of his home as feed for his mules. Huang's family has lived in Nuodeng for 22 generations.

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Salt of the earth 026
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
17 Jun 2013

A local man repairs a rein worn by mules in the thousand year old Nuodeng, once known as China's wealthiest village through its trade of salt. Mules are still used to transport heavy loads over the village's steep and narrow stone paths.

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Salt of the earth 027
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
17 Jun 2013

A view from the hills above Nuodeng, once known as China's wealthiest village through its trade of salt. Today, salt-cured Nuodeng ham, which was traded all the way to India on the southern silk road, is major source of income for the town, along with tourism. Demand for Nuodeng ham leapt seventeen fold in a week after the village was featured in the hit television series 'Taste of China,' produced by China Central Television.

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Salt of the earth 019
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

Ayi Huang prepares a meal in her kitchen using bits of precious Nuodeng ham.

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Salt of the earth 024
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

A young girl, a member of the Huang salt merchant family plays near a barn close to the Huang's ancestral compound. The Huang family has lived in Nuodeng for more than 20 generations, although this child's parents have left the village as migrant workers to better provide for them.

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Salt of the earth 020
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

Chopped Nuodeng ham in Ayi Huang's kitchen. Today, salt-cured Nuodeng ham, which was traded all the way to India on the southern silk road, is major source of income for the town, along with tourism.

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Salt of the earth 022
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

A young girl, a member of the Huang salt merchant family near the Huang's ancestral compound.

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Salt of the earth 023
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

A young girl, a member of the Huang salt merchant family plays with a puppy in front of the Huang's ancestral compound. The Huang family has lived in Nuodeng for more than 20 generations, although these children's parents have left the village as migrant workers to better provide for them.

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Salt of the earth 021
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
16 Jun 2013

Young members of the Huang salt merchant family play with puppies in front of the Huang's ancestral compound. The Huang family has lived in Nuodeng for more than 20 generations, although these children's parents have left the village as migrant workers to better provide for them. Nuodeng was known as China's wealthiest village through its trade of salt.

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Salt of the earth 013
Yunlong, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Pigs roam at a livestock market at Yunlong. Pigs like these are used to make salt-cured ham in near-by Nuodeng.

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Salt of the earth 015
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Salt is moulded into cylinders, which are then set over a charcoal fire at the home of one of the many village families named after the Huang salt merchant family. Nuodeng was known as China's wealthiest village through its trading of salt.

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Salt of the earth 016
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Salt is removed from water in a traditional way in large cauldrons over wood-fueled fires.

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Salt of the earth 017
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Salt is moulded into cylinders, which are then set over a charcoal fire.

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Salt of the earth 012
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Nuodeng ham is stored in the home of the Huang family at their hostel, Fu Jia Liu Fang Yuan.

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Salt of the earth 014
Yunlong, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

A pig seller shades his swine with an umbrella at the livestock market at Yunlong.

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Salt of the earth 018
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
15 Jun 2013

Nuodeng ham is prepared and cut in the kitchen of the family home of one of many families descended from Huang salt merchants.

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Salt of the earth 005
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

A local of Nuodeng, a thousand year old village, chops wood as his wife looks on.

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Salt of the earth 007
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

A man leads a mule over a rocky path above, the thousand year old village of Nuodeng. Mules are still the only way of carrying heavy loads through the village, which reaches up the steep slopes of a deep valley.

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Salt of the earth 009
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

Ayi Yang examines Noudeng hams in the curing room of her home, where legs of ham are hung from rafters for a year before sale. This cured meat was traded all the way to India on the southern silk road.

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Salt of the earth 010
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

Ayi Yang poses in her home with a block of locally harvested salt used for curing Nuodeng ham.

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Salt of the earth 006
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

A local of Nuodeng leads a mule saddled for tourist rides down steep stone stairs. Mules are still the only way of carrying heavy loads through the village, which reaches up the steep slopes of a deep valley.

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Salt of the earth 008
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

A block of locally harvested potassium-rich salt will be used for curing Nuodeng ham.

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Salt of the earth 011
Nuodeng, China, Yunnan
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

Mountains are visible behind an ancient wall in Nuodeng village, which is situated on the the steep slopes of a deep valley.

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Salt of the Earth: The Ancient Villag...
Nuodeng
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

Like in Europe, salt has played a significant role in Asian history for thousands of years and has been a driver of commerce: a relatively rare, high-value product which could be exchanged for other high-value products from tea to silk. The English word “salary” dates back to the time when Roman soldiers were paid in part with salt.

A tax on salt was one of the causes of the French Revolution. More than a seasoning, salt is a preservative which can keep meat and other foods from spoiling, a quality which made it indispensable for long winters and long journeys by land and sea. Much of its trade in Asia took place along the famed Tea Horse Road – a route that stretched from China’s Sichuan Province, through Yunnan Province, to Tibet, Myanmar and India.

The ancient village of Nuodeng, nestled in a valley in Yunnan, 165 km northwest of Dali, is one of the province’s only sources of salt. As far back as the Han Dynasty, more than two thousand years ago, the village’s plentiful salt reserves have been mined from salt wells. Cylinders of brine-boiled salt from Nuodeng and legs of its famous salt-cured ham were carried to the furthest reaches of the Tea Horse Road. In the process, Nuodung grew so wealthy that it became known as the richest village in China.

Centuries of prosperity came to an end when China’s salt industry was nationalized in 1949. Evidence of past riches can still be seen in some of the older mansions and ancestral halls. To this day, descendants of salt merchant families continue to extract salt from brine by boiling it over huge wood-fired cauldrons.

Yankun Yang, her husband Bingquan and their two adult sons are one of a handful of families who carry on the tradition of salt production in Nuodeng. “Making salt is not particularly complicated, but it is time consuming,” Yankun explains. “To make fine salt, one needs patience as well as an understanding of heat and evaporation.”

It takes about a day to make salt. As water evaporates, white salt crystals are heaped into wooden baskets to dry in the sun. The salt is then pressed into cylinders with a two piece bamboo mould before finally being arranged on an iron tray to harden over coals.

“It is potassium that makes our salt special. It’s indispensable for Nuodeng ham and it’s what gives it its unique flavour,” says Yankun. Both salt and salt-cured Nuodeng ham is still a major source of income for the village, along with tourism. “It’s an integral part of life in our community.”

A visit to Nuodeng is a journey into Chinese history. The village curls through a steep valley in a yin-yang S-shape. Its tumbledown walls, ancient streets and mountainous scenery create an atmosphere of great beauty and serenity. The clang of bells that hang from the harnesses of horses and donkeys, echo through the ochre-hued hills. These four-legged all-terrain vehicles are still used today by residents to transport heavy loads up the steep steps of Nuodeng, much of which remains inaccessible to modern machines.

Interest in Nuodeng’s salt-cured ham skyrocketed two years ago when the village was featured on the hugely successful culinary series A Bite of China, produced by China Central Television. Demand for Nuodeng ham increased seventeen-fold overnight. Ayi Huang, who also runs a guesthouse for tourists, follows the same recipe for ham passed down through generations.

Each year during the Chinese New Year festivities, the Huang family slaughters pigs to make around 14 legs of ham. “I like white pigs best because they have more dark meat and less fat compared to black and brown pigs”, she says.

There are five stages to ham production: first the pork is ‘dressed’ – that is, excess fat and skin is removed. It is then drained of blood, to ensure it does not spoil. Before the pork is rubbed with salt from hoof to haunch, it is cured with a locally distilled corn spirit known as baogujiu and then hung to dry for between 12 to 24 months.

Most family homes in Nuodeng have a room set aside for drying ham. Hygiene is paramount when making ham. “We have to be very careful to make sure that no flies get into the room. If even one fly gets in, all the ham could be ruined.”

The ham has a delicate, slightly sweet flavour not unlike Spanish jamon. The secret to its taste, Ayi Huang believes, is in the pigs’ diet, which consists entirely of locally grown corn, yellow beans and green vegetables. The ham is sold locally for 100 CNY per kilogram and is so valuable to the town’s economy that those who make it rarely eat it themselves.

“It’s only served to very important guests,” Ayi Huang’s sister-in-law Soaozi Huang explains. “If there’s no ham on the table, it’s not a banquet.”

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Mad Air
Quito
By Austin Mackell
14 Jun 2013

A skateboarder gets mad air at a skate-park in Quito's central north

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Assange is Coming
Quito
By Austin Mackell
29 May 2013

Graffiti in Quito which reads "Assange is coming" with the lights of a police car passing. Julian Assange of Wikileaks has for years taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

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Vegies
Quito
By Austin Mackell
29 May 2013

A woman selling vegetables in Quito

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Chancho
Quito
By Austin Mackell
29 May 2013

Pork for sale as street food in Quito

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Urban Soccer Ghosts
Quito
By Austin Mackell
18 May 2013

An amateur game of soccer in Quito's suburbs.