Black Sugar (Kurozato) is a common ingredient in Asian cooking and baking. This type of unrefined sugar comes from the island of Okinawa and has many health benefits not found in white and brown/red sugar. It is believed to help lower cholesterol levels and neutral blood fat contains molasses, potassium, iron, calcium and other minerals necessary to our diet. While chocolate might be the comfort food of choice in the west for many women during painful periods; in Japan (and Taiwan as well), black sugar is the soothing medicinal of choice as iron and calcium help ease the discomfort, bringing ease and relief during the menses while the mellow sweet taste and calories muster up energy to help endure it. In Chinese medicine terminology we would say that it treats painful menstruation by moving and nourishing the blood.
Black sugar looks a lot like brown sugar, only darker in color and more complex in taste, smoky-malt like with a bit of saltiness. Some common serving styles include dunking it in a cup of ginger tea (excellent for cold days or people suffering from cold syndromes), melting it into a caramelized sauce, processing it into crystalized lollipops with a sour plum surprise waiting in the middle or having it straight up in cubes as a mildly sweet snack. It is also served on sweet potatoes for a crystalized treat. When I was young my grandma used to pour it generously over our pancakes on Sunday and we couldn't get enough.
In short, whether you want to put this eastern delight in your next coffee, cake or generously pour it over the next pancake, this safer and healthier substitute for common sweeteners found in markets today can get the job done while nourishing your body!