What is yuzu and how do you use it?
A while back I treated myself to a visit to The Vanguard @ 1000 Trades, the UK’s First Cocktail Bar & Meadery. While I was there, I tried their Japanese Milk Punch, which is a cocktail with sake and yuzu. Fruity and tart, it had me wondering why I’d never tried yuzu before.
What is yuzu?
Yuzu is a citrus fruit that is mainly cultivated in Japan, Korea, and China. It is a bit like the halfway point between a lemon and a lime. Although it is incredibly fragrant, it is extremely sour and tart, meaning that in cooking it is mainly used for its juice and zest.
It looks a little bit rough and ready with its bumpy edges – the uninitiated would be forgiven for thinking that the fruits were actually lemons that hadn’t been carefully transported.
More Than A Fruit
This fruit is also used in an old Japanese tradition. On the 22nd of December (called Touji in Japanese), people traditionally take a hot bath which is filled with cut and whole yuzu. This hot bath filled with the fruit is believed to benefit the body and mind. As well, in ancient Japan it was believed that the fragrance could drive away evil spirits!
Where can I get yuzu?
Fresh yuzu is notoriously difficult to find outside of Japan and Korea. Luckily, there’s Namayasai LLP, located in East Sussex. They were among the first in the UK to pioneer the agroforestry method known as ‘alley cropping’, and are known for their commitment to nutrition and flavour. They grow English and Japanese vegetables, herbs, and fruit, and in 2016 they started growing yuzu.
If you’re not looking for fresh fruits, you could also try some of the yuzu-based products from The Wasabi Company. They not only have a yuzu mayonnaise (a perfect accompaniment for salmon or avocado), they also have fresh yuzu ponzu sauce. Ponzu is a classic Japanese condiment that can be used as a salad dressing, marinade or a dipping sauce.
Finally, there is also Sansu Drinks. They are:
…the first company in the world to create a range of fruit drinks using Yuzu as its core ingredient.
They claim that the fruit contains the flavonoids (organic compounds recognised for their powerful antioxidant activity in vitro) Hesperetin and Naringenin, which can reduce cell damage, much like Vitamin C. Sansu Drinks have a couple of different refreshing flavours such as sparkling yuzu and ginger, and yuzu and pink guava.
Recipes using yuzu
Unlike many other fruits, it can be used throughout a meal, all the way from starters to desserts. One of the best ways to use the fruit is in a cocktail. Roger Dagorn, one of only 180 Master Sommeliers worldwide — describes the fruit as:
“…a great way to start the meal. It sweetens the cocktail, but also works well with drinks that are meant to be drier and doesn’t overpower them.”
- Chef Mei Lin of Top Chef fame has created sparkling yuzu gimlets. With basil, yuzu and cucumber, this is a delightfully refreshing vodka-based cocktail
- The Masons’ Arms chef Mark Dodson has a recipe for soy, mirin and yuzu-marinated salmon that is perfect as a light summer dinner
- Rachel Walker, who is the brain behind The Food I Eat, has also created an easy dessert of meringue with yuzu curd and griddled persimmon