It’s also good in marinades, barbecue sauce, puff pastry—it’s amazing.
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honey tea hero
Credit: Stacey Ballis

For me, it started with the advice of a friend. I was chatting with a pal and mentioned that I was suffering with my first cold of the season. You know the kind—stuffy nose, sore throat, congestion. Not bad enough to keep you housebound, but still really annoying. I said I was living on tea with honey and lemon and she asked if I had an Asian market nearby. When I said that I did, she texted me a picture of a jar of what looked like jam, with a picture of a beehive and a hand of ginger on the label.

“Honey ginger jam. It will save you. We swear by it,” she texted. Since she was first generation Chinese-American, I figured she knew what she was talking about.

I packed up a pocket full of Kleenex and headed to the Korean market a few minutes’ drive from my house. Once inside, I showed the picture on my phone to a lovely young woman, who escorted me to an aisle and pointed. Honey ginger jam, jars and jars of it, every size from 8 ounces to a giant bucket. And not just honey ginger, but honey citron and honey grapefruit and other citrus. I grabbed a couple of large jars, basing my choice entirely on the availability of English on the label.

Watch: How to Make Matcha Green Tea

Getting home with my haul, I read the instructions carefully. Stir one to two tablespoons into boiling water. Drink. Seemed simple enough. I flicked on the kettle, grabbed a large mug, and popped a jar. Inside was a brownish glop whose texture was a cross between preserves and Jell-o. I dropped what I eyeballed as about a tablespoon and a half into my mug, noting the shreds of ginger in the goop. The moment the boiling water hit it, a powerful cloud of ginger scented steam hit my face, in the best possible way. I stirred in the jam, noting how easily it dissolved in the hot water, and retreated to the couch.

The tea was sweet, spicy from the ginger, and at once it soothed my sore throat and opened my sinuses. Over the course of the next few days I used nearly half the jar, plain in water, and in both black and green teas. It was the best thing to happen to my suffering since Zicam came on the market.

Once I was feeling better, I started finding other uses for the stuff. A schmear on buttered toast was delicious. A dollop in my barbecue sauce added a little extra something and mixed with miso paste and spread on chicken thighs made for a great salty sweet anointing. I mixed it with soy and hoisin and five spice and cooked cocktail weenies in it. I smeared it on puff pastry and laid thin slices of prosciutto on top before rolling up and slicing for a sweet and savory palmiers.

Getting experimental, I picked up a jar of the Honey Citron flavor, which is less chest-clearing-potent than the ginger, but still super soothing and delicious. This version I added to vinaigrettes, marinades, even stirred it into cocktails. Mixed with a little bit of rice vinegar and some chili oil, it became a great dipping sauce for dumplings, and I even added some to my sweet and sour cabbage soup with delightful results.

By the time cold season was over, I was addicted to the stuff, whatever the state of my health. If you don’t have a local Asian market, Amazon has your back.