Friday, September 02, 2005

Spotlight Food: Yuzu

Yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit that has become all the rage on restaurant menus and in Asian Fusion cuisine. This latest hot trend in cooking has been a popular taste in Japan for centuries, but Americans are starting to discover the pungent sourness and unique flavor profile of the yuzu.

The flavor of yuzu is different from that of lemons or limes, or any other Western citrus, for that matter. It can best be related to the Meyer Lemon in it’s tartness, with hints of grapefruit and passion fruit, and a little floral accent.

The fruit is small, very bumpy and with a rough complexion, you wouldn’t think by looking at it that it would pack such a lovely unique flavor.

The yuzu is native to China and Tibet, and was first brought to Japan in the 8th century. The rind is the most used part of the yuzu. It is used as a garnsh or as an additive to food. Like lemon zest, yuzu rind packs a real punch. Because of it's acidic qualities, yuzu was used in the middle ages as a preservative for foods. High in vitamin C, the yuzu is also considered to have many health benefits, stimulating appetite and helping to raise metabolism.

In Japanese cuisine, yuzu is best known as an integral ingredient in ponzu sauce. It is also the base for a popular matsutake mushroom broth used in many dishes.

But innovative chefs are starting to use yuzu in more than savory Japanese dishes. It has become very popular among pastry chefs for it's more complex flavor profile than lemons, and is now starting to show up in fancy cocktails in trendy bars.

It may be difficult to find fresh yuzu in many parts of the US. It has been cultivated domestically for less than 50 years, and the importation of fresh yuzu from Japan is highly restricted. If you can't find fresh yuzu during the autumn and early winter, you can readily find bottled yuzu juice in asian markets. You can purchase small quantities of yuzu and other exotic citrus fruits online from the Rising C. Ranch in California.

Photo by Jason Truesdell

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