Yuzu is a lesser known citrus fruit. Originally from China, it is mostly cultivated and eaten in Japan and Korea where it is prized for its aromatic zest and uniquely fragrant juice, but chefs in Europe and North America are now raving about it too. The problem with yuzu though, is it’s short season: the asparagus of the citrus family, the trees fruit for just a couple of weeks from late November to early December, so most of the crop of this bumpy, satsuma-like fruit remains in East Asia. Luckily for us, bottled yuzu juice is of good quality and available online and in Japanese stores.
Yuzu juice is a key seasoning in Japanese cookery, used in a similar way to lemon juice to add acidity and a burst of the yuzu’s unique flavour (somewhere akin to a mixture of lime, grapefruit and lemon) and is most apparent in the dipping sauce, ponzu. Ponzu is widely available in supermarkets and is ideal for spring rolls or Japanese gyoza dumplings so makes a good introduction to yuzu before splashing out on the expensive juice.
Yuzu zest is also a key garnish to Japanese food, the slight bitterness contrasting with the sweeter flavours of honey, soy and mirin. It’s also used to make yuzu desserts and the fragrant oils locked within are also to scent Japanese baths when the fruits are in season. In Korea, where use of yuzu in cooking is more limited, the yuzu rind is combined with sugar to make a marmalade-like syrup, yujacha, that is mixed with water as a popular drink all year round; this yuzu marmalade can be incorporated into desserts too.
While it might be tricky to find (don’t expect to see the fresh fruit in the UK any time soon) and quite pricey, a little yuzu juice can go a long way so if you like Japanese and Korean food, it’s definitely worth a try!
For ideas cooking with yuzu, try this Korean cucumber salad.