Sugar, it turns out, can be not only delectably sweet but also rather interesting in character if you take the time to get to know it better. I used to think that sugar was just sugar. Boy was I ever wrong! Ever since I've gotten interested in trying different sugars (specifically less processed sugar), I've found that every sugar is different, each having a character of its own. Well, except for maybe white sugar, which I find terribly bland now, just sweet and nothing else, which is probably why we don't buy it anymore. But indeed, why would one want to buy plain ol' white sugar when there are so many interesting sugars available nowadays? Take for example, one recent discovery of ours, crystallized Himalayan Wild Honey.
We found this crystallized Himalayan Wild Honey in, of all places, one of our local Chinese medicine pharmacies. You know, the kind that sells strange dried herbs and critters of all sorts that can be ground and cooked into a bitter black soup to cure all your ills. I didn't really know what it was, just thought it looked interesting. Later on, after research, I discovered that Himalayan honey is really an amazing thing. It's produced from these super sized bees that hive on the cliffs of the Himalayas in Nepal. In order to get the wild honey they have to use the 'traditional' method (which is also know as rope ladders, baskets and poles). Wow, very precarious rickety work! Check out the amazing honey gathering photos here.
As I said, the cool thing about less processed sugars is that they all have different characters. The Himalayan Wild Honey is characterized by a really pure, clear, delicate sweetness. Nothing cloying about it, no underlying heaviness or other flavor notes. Well. maybe a really delicate, subtle floral note, that's it. Often we hesitate to use honey while cooking because honey usually has it's own strong flavor notes that can clash or overwhelm whatever it is you're cooking. But no problem cooking with this Himalaya Wild Honey. It stays in the background, enhancing your dish subtly and yet very effectively. So thus this wild honey has become a real cooking favorite for us. We've used it very successfully in our Hong Kong Iced Lemon Tea and also in our Chinese Drunken Chicken Wings. It's also very popular around our house as a sweet nibble, just a tiny chunk off the ol' block makes for a wonderful candy treat!
Tip: If you can't find the crystal kind, you can get the bottled himalayan wild honey as well.
Cooking with Sugars at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Hong Kong Style Iced Lemon Tea 香港凍檸茶
Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao 年糕