Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Yuzu. Citros junos. ユズ、柚子。

Japanese type of citron with a distinctive aroma and tarty flavor. Yuzu has been cultivated in Japan at least since the 7th century. It is believed to be a hybrid of the sour mandarin and Ichang papeda, and probably originated in China. Yuzu grows on small trees which contain many thorns. Yuzu trees are planted at high elevations on mountain sides, as the cold at night makes the fruit sweeter. Harvest is from late October through November. The largest yuzu cultivation takes place in Kochi Prefecture; but yuzu also come from Kyoto, Yamanashi and Tochigi.

Yuzu tree
[Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The fruit resembles a small grapefruit with an uneven skin, usually between 5.5 and 7.5 cm in diameter. It can be either green or yellow, depending on ripeness. Although there are subtle differences in size and flavor, yuzu resembles the sudachi, another Japanese citrus fruit.

Besides the yuzu used in the Japanese cuisine (called hon-yuzu, or "true yuzu"), there are two other types of yuzu: shishi-yuzu, with a knobby skin, and hana-yuzu. This last variety is purely ornamental and only grown for its flowers.

[Photo Ad Blankestijn]

Uses in the Japanese kitchen (yuzu is seldom eaten as such):
  • Aromatic yuzu peel (the outer rind) is used to garnish soups (suimono) and other dishes such as chawan-mushi.
  • Yuzu and yuzu peel are added to miso to create yuzu-miso.
  • Yuzu juice is used as a seasoning (like lemon in other cuisines). One way of using it is in ponzu sauce, a combination of yuzu juice with dashi, vinegar and mirin. Another product is yuzu vinegar, rice vinegar flavored with yuzu juice.
  • Yuzu is combined with honey to make yuzu-hachimitsu. Yuzu-hachimitsu is used to make yuzu tea, or cocktails as "yuzu sour." There is also yuzu wine.
  • Yuzu is also used to make jam or marmelade.
  • Yuzu can be used as a flavoring for sweets, as yuzu cake.
  • Yuzu pepper (yuzu kosho) is a combination of green and yellow yuzu rinds with cili peppers and salt.
  • Yuzu juice is now a popular drink (often with honey mixed in).
In winter, yuzu is also sometimes added to the bath water (yuzuburo), especially on winter solstice day. This is said to guard against colds, rough skin and warm and relax the body. It is a custom that goes back to the 18th c. The yuzu can be floated whole in the bath (sometimes in a cloth bag), or cut in half.