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The (bittersweet) arhat of living

Jon and I tied the knot in 2016 after being in a long-distance relationship. Although we spent less than a month together in the entire year, it was not difficult to notice an Englishman’s idea of “sweet” – the kind of candied, honey, caramelised sweetness in many British confectionery and desserts (which they like to call puddings).

There are two types of Sweetness in Chinese culture. The more common Sweetness 甜 (tián) is equivalent to the instant English-pudding sweetness, as well as the sweetness of love. This character consists of a Tongue 舌 (shé), next to a slightly more complex and gradual sort of Sweetness 甘 (gān).

As we were going to be apart (for another year) during the green card application, I wanted to share a Chinese idiom with him – At the most bitter end, sweetness arrives (苦尽甘来). I thought it would be interesting to illustrate the phrase with a Monk Fruit.

Luohanguo [罗汉果] – Siraitia Grosvenorii – which means Arhat (罗汉) Fruit (果) in Chinese is also known as Monk Fruit in America. The drink produced from boiling a fruit is probably more of a tisane (herbal infusion), rather than a juice (fruit drink). With its anti-inflammatory properties, it is an alternative remedy to relieve sore throats and boost immunity.

“Yuck! This is medicine! It is bitter!”

Jon did not finish the cup of Monk Fruit that instance. However, he revisited that faithful episode while we were apart and began to appreciate the complex bittersweetness in the drink and of life when we finally got to live together.

Two years after, not only has Jon expanded his taste palette, the Monk Fruit has become essential to rid that occasional sore throat.

>> Bitter, sweet, or bittersweet?
>> Rinse Monk Fruit and break it up into pieces (by applying pressure with one’s thumb)
>> Add 8 cups (1L) of water (to husks/seeds) and boil for thirty minutes
>> Sieve out husks/seeds
>> The end product looks like a big pot of mulled wine
>> A little dose of antioxidants

Last but not least, we discovered that health-conscious companies out there are turning Monk Fruit into sweeteners. Yay!

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