Kuro means black and mitsu means honey, so for the longest time I thought kuro-mitsu was just a dark type of honey, perhaps buckwheat, and I wondered why I could never find it in the honey section of the supermarket. In actuality, kuro-mitsu is a syrup made from black sugar (kuro-zato), the famously healthy dark brown sugar produced in Okinawa, and sold next to the other sugars on the shelves. While mass-produced brown sugar in the U.S. is often made by simply coating refined white sugar with molasses, black sugar is unrefined, resulting in chunky, sticky granules with a pronounced molasses flavor.
Kuro-mitsu is thinner and milder than molasses, making it an ideal substitute for honey, whether spread on toast, drizzled over yogurt or stirred into tea. Kuro-zato is known for its throat-soothing qualities, so I use it in my favorite sick-day tea: I boil sliced ginger in water for five minutes, let it sit for ten minutes, reheat, and pour the resulting liquid over the juice of one lemon and one tablespoon of kuro-mitsu. It's spicy, sweet and citrusy and always makes me feel better.
But there's no need to stay virtuous in your kuro-mitsu use. The dish that inspired me to buy my own bottle of kuro-mitsu, in fact, was a strange and wonderful dessert named, alluringly, Honeycube, the special of the day at a cafe in Nagoya. (Just try saying it: Honeycube. Don't you want to eat it even though you have no idea what it is?) Honeycube turned out to be a plate piled high with the most unlikely ingredients: cubes of just-toasted white bread scattered over a heaping portion of vanilla soft-serve ice cream, then topped with a drizzle of kuro-mitsu and a dusting of cinnamon. Oh, and there was a scoop of fresh whipped cream in there somewhere, too. Surprisingly, Honeycube as a dessert lived up to Honeycube as a name. The cinnamon-scented crunch of the warm toasted bread with the cool softness of the ice cream was something like eating an ice-cream-stuffed churro and led to the realization that kuro-mitsu and ice cream go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Or strawberries and cream. Or kinako and fresh mochi. Whatever -- something synergistically delicious anyway.
This realization is why, while out for post-dinner drinks at an izakaya last week, when I heard the waiter say the only dessert they had was ice cream topped with kuro-mitsu and kinako, my reaction was one of such deep and sudden enthusiasm the man scooted back about a foot in surprise and four of my friends ordered the same, having no idea what they were getting, but unable to resist my breathless excitement. It was like a Japanese hot fudge sundae. I ate every bite.