The last time I was out grocery shopping at the Jaya supermarket in Kuala Lumpur, I made a discovery (quite by accident, as usual).
I regularly use monk fruit in my recipes, but I’d never actually seen the fruit. I’ve used a fine white powder from Nu Naturals to sweeten everything from chocolate cake to key lime pie, and it’s truly amazing. Since cutting sugar, I’d been using stevia as my go-to sweetener, but as good of a substitute as it is, I couldn’t deny that stevia still had that slightly bitter aftertaste. When I came across monk fruit, I was intrigued. I only have to use a tiny amount to sweeten the vast majority of desserts, which is pretty incredible all things considered. And it tastes just like sugar. (Okay, not exactly, but it’s pretty darn sweet.)
When we embarked on this trip to Southeast Asia, I packed a small jar of stevia in my bag to use to sweeten things while I was travelling. Stevia is incredibly sweet, and can go a long ways in sweets when used properly. A combination of stevia and fruit sweeteners (dates, bananas, fruit jellies, etc.) can be used in all sorts of treats to make the stevia that you bring along last longer. I’ve been travelling for almost 2 months now, and I’m not out of the stevia I brought with me.
But stevia isn’t monk fruit, so I was super excited with I came across dried luo han guo fruit here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!
The dried fruits came in packs of 2 dried berries, so I decided to get 2 packs (I came back for 1 more before I left Kuala Lumpur). I was really excited to find the luo han guo, since I knew that its original home was in China. Malaysia has a large population of Chinese (and Indian) immigrants, so I’d wondered if perhaps I’d find some monk fruit during my stay in the country. I was sad that I found it only at the end of the 5 weeks in Malaysia, and not closer to the beginning!
With the dried monk fruit, most people make tea, so that’s what I did. My dad actually pioneered the experiment by crumbling up the entire fruit, shell and all, into a pot of water. We boiled/steeped it for a while, and then took it off the heat to try. The tea was sweet and somewhat earthy, a bit like brown sugar or molasses. It wasn’t overly sweet though, which surprised me since the monk fruit powder that I use at home is exceptionally sweet. I decided I’d try it in some cookie dough that night to see if the liquid would work as a sweetener.
What I discovered through my experimentation was this:
- Whatever water or other liquid the recipe calls for, sub it with some monk fruit tea. The tea might change the color (actually, it definitely will), but it’s pretty much guaranteed to sweeten.
- The luo han guo tea is awesome. Just drink it straight up. It’s supposed to have cooling effects too, which is perfect in the hot and humid Malaysian climate.
- If you need it, add a pinch of stevia or another small amount of fruit to enhance the sweetness of the monk fruit. Sometimes all it needs is a little extra sweet from another source to accentuate the sweetness (maybe that sounds strange, but try it, you’ll see what I mean).
If you find it, try it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.