Anytime I see a yuzu product on the shelves of an Asian market, I have to buy it. Called citron in English, the yuzu is a small yellow citrus fruit about the size of a lemon, with a knobby skin and a whole lot of seeds inside. It is widely grown in Japan and Korea. While it can be very difficult to get fresh yuzu in the United States, preserved products, such as these, are readily available.
The flavor is unlike any other citrus, which is why I so love it. But if I had to liken it to something, I’d say it’s a little like Meyer lemon and a little like grapefruit with a dash of cucumber.
On the right in the picture above is a bottle of yuzu juice that I bought at First Oriental Market in Decatur (2774 East Ponce De Leon Ave., 404-377-6950). I use it salad dressing (a splash added to a half-and-half mixture of seasoned rice wine vinegar and good olive oil with a lot of minced shallot) and in any sauce where I’d use lemon. Mixed with honey, it makes a great base for a soda (add sparkling water) or a cocktail (add gin or Irish whiskey). This juice seems less processed and fake tasting than bottled lemon juice. (You can see the un-homogenized pulp in the neck of the bottle.) Even so, I like to add a squeeze of lime to it brighten the flavor.
In the center is powdered yuzu zest that I picked up at Kalustyan’s in New York on a recent trip. I combined some with Kosher salt using a mortar and pestle. This yuzu salt is the bomb diggity, and I’ve pretty much used it on everything from cut fruit to grilled fish. The aroma has a kind of elegant pow: you bring the food past your nose and think, “What is this?”
Finally, on the left is one of my jars of yuzu kosho — a Japanese spice paste that I use all the time. (I bought this one at Kalustyan’s, but I’ve also seen it on the shelves at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market.) This blend of yuzu zest and hot pepper is the most pungent thing around: intensely hot, intensely salty, intensely yuzu-y. A dot of it puts your mouth in high alert. I love it with any kind of cooked or raw seafood.
We use it for one unusual meal we eat routinely in our house. This meal consists of leftover short grain rice at room temperature, tuna fish salad, slivered cucumbers, Korean seaweed sheets, Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and yuzu kosho. Everything goes on the table, and people pass the ingredients around to make their own sushi rolls.
So there you have my wonderful world of yuzu.
-by John Kessler for the Food & More blog