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Dining In 2 minutes 28 June 2019

Ingredient: Golden Monk Fruit

To stay cool in this hot and humid weather, the on-trend golden monk fruit is your first choice.

wellness summer ingredients

According to registered traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Yau Wing Lam in Hong Kong, monk fruit has a cool property and sweet flavour. It is able to relieve body heat, phlegm and cough, as well as nurture the lungs. That said, the monk fruit available in the market have an unappealing dark brown colour and a strange burning, bitter smell. As cheap as they are, the fruit is still not a popular item.

But the situation changes with the arrival of another variety. The golden monk fruit derives its name from the bright hue of its skin. Although it’s a few times more expensive than its sombre counterpart, it is free of the unpleasant burning odour. No wonder even gastronome Chua Lam launched his own brand of golden monk fruit in mainland China.

Fresh monk fruits are green in colour. After the fruit is boiled in water, the liquid comes out sweet and mildly grassy.
Fresh monk fruits are green in colour. After the fruit is boiled in water, the liquid comes out sweet and mildly grassy.

New Technique To Better Flavour

The same monk fruit can have such discrepancies in colour and taste because of the use of technology. Fresh monk fruit is green in colour. By boiling it, you get a sweet drink. However, it also tastes a bit grassy and does not keep well. For this reason, suppliers of traditional Chinese medicine ingredients in the past roast the fruit from 80°C to 100°C for five to seven days.

Temperature is a key element: high heat would burn the fruit, darken its skin and caramelise the sugar within. Between the two roasting methods, the more traditional one uses wood fire, which results in a more burning flavour and a deeper brown colour. Roasting on electric stove creates a lighter tone, but the bitterness is still there.

Low-temperature vacuum drying pushes the cost up a little bit. After selection, the fresh monk fruit is washed by machine and placed in the special vacuum dryer. In such a situation, the boiling point of liquid drops. Through microwave heating, the dryer reaches just under 50°C to evaporate the moisture inside the fruit. After that, the golden, long-lasting golden monk fruit is good to go.

Golden monk fruit (left) looks clearly brighter than the one made by traditional method. (Pic: Joe Chan)
Golden monk fruit (left) looks clearly brighter than the one made by traditional method. (Pic: Joe Chan)

Tips For Buying

This new method of preserving the fruit causes zero bitterness through caramelising. More than that, it preserves more natural nutrients from the fruit. Some of those include temperature-sensitive vitamin C, active enzyme and protein. When you boil or brew it with water, golden monk fruit tastes different from its traditional sibling. The liquid is just as bright yellow, sweet with a pleasant aftertaste. There’s an additional fruity fragrance absent from the darker monk fruit.

Golden monk fruit has a couple disadvantages nonetheless. In addition to the higher price tag, the shell of the fruit is more fragile, causing it to break more easily during transportation. Furthermore, to facilitate moisture evaporation during production, the golden monk fruit has a hole drilled into its top. The hole provides an opening for bugs to get in when it is too big. When choosing, it’s recommended to buy the golden monk fruit that is individually packed with its body intact for better hygiene and easier storage.

A Speciality Of Guangxi

Like the traditional one, golden monk fruit is mostly produced in the province of Guangxi, especially in Yongfu County in Guilin. This area has over 300 years of history cultivating the fruit. Until now, the locals still use the natural resources from the surroundings to grow it. Don’t miss out if the label specifies the monk fruit in front of you was grown there. That’s basically a seal of quality.

Brewing with hot water at 80°C gives you the most nutrients and flavour. (Pic: Joe Chan)
Brewing with hot water at 80°C gives you the most nutrients and flavour. (Pic: Joe Chan)

Brewing Method

To reap the many benefits of golden monk fruit, you need to learn how to prepare it. It can’t be simpler: break the fruit open and put a quarter of it in a teapot. Fill it with hot water of about 80°C — don’t use boiling water, because golden monk fruit has rich sugar in it. Very hot water will make the liquid too sweet, killing all nuances of flavour. The first brew takes a minute or so. As you pour out the water, its amber hue and sweet scent are wonderful.

After that, you can adjust the brewing time according to your own preference. The fruit in the teapot can be discarded and replaced when its flavour is totally drawn out. When the weather is exceptionally hot, it’s a good idea to let the water cool and then put it in the fridge so you can enjoy a cup of perfectly chilled nectar later. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, however, not everyone is suited to consume monk fruit. Its cool temperament is especially hazardous to flu patients. Consult a practitioner before you proceed.

This article was written by Joe Chan and translated by Vincent Leung. Click here to read the original version of this story.

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