The Grocery Ninja leaves no aisle unexplored, no jar unopened, no produce untasted. Creep along with her below, and read her past market missions here.
For years, my mom would not allow my brother and me to eat what she called "Western candy." No SweeTarts, Life Savers, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rollsnothing that had a colorful wrapper and could be bought at a regular supermarket. She had somehow been persuaded by some heartless dentist that eating the same kind of candy everyone else in school was eating (you hear that, Mom?) would give us a mouthful of rotten teeth. Instead, whenever we whined about it heartily enough, she would hand us a stick of candied winter melon (after it had been boiled to death and leeched of all its sugary goodness in barley water) or a handful of honeyed jujube dates and dried longans.
However, if either of us scored full marks on a test, she would bring out the tub of maltosethe same syrup she would use to marinate her char siu (roast pork)and let us poke a single chopstick in and attempt to twirl as big a glob of the sticky, golden stuff as could be supported on it. The resulting "lollipop" would keep us happy and sticky-fingered for a good 20 minutesit being a lot more "lick-resilient" than honey.
Since leaving home for school, I've had plenty of opportunities to stuff myself with all the supermarket candy I want. But strangely enough (after two root canals), it wasn't until I tried to make my own Peking duck recently that I remembered the little tub of maltose.
Also called malt sugar, it's made from the "fermented grains of barley, wheat, or millet" (though a little Googling shows it's also made from starches like rice and cassava), is less sweet than honey or sugar, and lacks the floral, piney, or fruity notes that honey has (depending on where the bees making it were hanging out). It seems it's this very neutrality in flavor that is prized though, and apparently, it's less destructive than glucose and fructose when it comes to tooth decayso my mom wasn't completely misinformed after all.
It can be tricky managing a maltose lollipop in the office, though, so I've been seeking out more convenient energy-delivery systems and these are excellent prework out:
Cellophane-wrapped on the outside and edible rice-papered on the inside, the ingredient label lists walnuts, maltose, black dates, and starch. These taste like chewy nougat but aren't as in-your-face sweet. They're pretty filling and could probably take the place of an energy bar. Plus (and this may likely be due in part to the new religion I've taken up called flossing), I haven't had a cavity since trading in the gummy worms for these.
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