Yuzu, called yuja in Korea, is a citrus fruit whose appearance resembles a grapefruit. Unripe yuzu is green, while a ripe yuzu is bright yellow. It has a rough, uneven skin, and is usually larger than a mandarin orange. This citrus fruit is believed to be a hybrid of mandarin orange and papeda, another citrus fruit native to Asia. The yuzu plant is somewhere between an upright shrub or a small tree that has large thorns. While this tree can withstand extremely cold weathers, it grows rather slowly, often taking at least 10 to 13 years to bear fruit.
Although yuzu looks like a regular citrus fruit, it is not consumed as such because of its hard flesh. Nevertheless, it has numerous applications in the culinary world and it is valued by chefs worldwide for its unique taste and versatility.
Where Does It Come From?
Yuzu is said to have originated in China and the Tibetan region where it grows wild. It was cultivated and later introduced to neighboring countries Japan and Korea during the 7th or 8th century. Nowadays, yuzu is also cultivated in New Zealand, Australia, and in some Mediterranean countries. Although originating from China, culinary use of yuzu was primarily popularized by Japanese cuisine.
Health Benefits Of Yuzu
Yuzu is not only popular because of its unique taste but also because of its health benefits. Yuzu is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants. Additionally, its fragrance has a soothing effect. In cosmetics, yuzu is beneficial in promoting a youthful glow and soothing inflammation.
What Does Yuzu Taste Like?
Yuzu has a combination of sour and bitter flavors with a tart quality. But what makes yuzu standout is its unexpected floral aroma that also mingles with the sour and bitter flavors.
Yuzu’s zest and juice are the elements that chefs prize the most. Its zest brings a citrusy, floral accent to food, while its juice is an incredible souring agent since it holds up well to cooking without losing its flavor.
While yuzu has cosmetic applications, it is well-loved as an ingredient in cooking.
Yuzu Ponzu Sauce
Ponzu sauce is a common dipping sauce or marinade used in Japanese cuisine. It has a delicate, citrusy taste since it is made with soy sauce, mirin, bonito flakes, kombu, rice vinegar, and yuzu. It is traditionally served with sashimi, shabu shabu, grilled meats, gyoza, cold noodles, and tempura.
Yuzu kosho is a fermented condiment, also from Japan, made with yuzu zest, yuzu juice, chili peppers, and salt. Yuzu kosho brings a lively combination of citrus tartness and spice that adds a refreshing kick to virtually any dish. It’s a great seasoning for grilled or braised meat, as well as fish and vegetables. This condiment is extremely versatile.
It is hard to find yuzu in western countries, but it is not impossible to find fresh yuzu or ready-made yuzu juice in supermarkets. Yuzu juice is just the juice squeezed from the fruit. This is a great souring agent in cooking and can be used in various stages of food preparation.
In Korea, yuzu or yuja is more popular as a tea. Koreans make yuja-cha by mixing yuzu marmalade with hot or cold water. Yuzu marmalade, being a preserve, is a great product that lets you have yuzu all year round. Though it is easier to use yuzu marmalade for toast or tea, you could also use this to add that distinct yuzu flavor to your cooking.
Yuzu is also used to flavor alcoholic beverages. Yuzu liqueur is made with the whole yuzu fruit, resulting in a tangy liqueur with floral notes. With its strong yuzu flavor, you can use yuzushu to add a yuzu-twist to traditional dessert recipes.
How To Use Yuzu In Your Cooking
Yuzu is primarily grown in Japan and Korea, with only a handful of other countries cultivating it. In the US, import of yuzu is illegal to protect domestic agriculture from diseases from Asian crops. There are, however, a few farms that grow yuzu in the country. All this is to say that fresh yuzu is a bit hard to come by and, thus, tends to be expensive. Luckily for us, yuzu comes in various preserved ways that are all versatile.
In an instant, we are assaulted with recipes that require acidity for which we can use yuzu. Off the top of our head, we think of substituting or adding yuzu for Teriyaki chicken, roast chicken, ceviche, braised short rib, and grilled salmon, mackerel, or squid. Change up your steak by marinating it in yuzu kosho instead.
Yuzu is a great way to elevate common dishes. You can add yuzu to ramen or miso soup. Yuzu kosho could also be used to season chicken, fish, or to finish steak. Others have mixed it with other condiments like mayonnaise to make yuzu mayo or a yuzu vinaigrette for your salads.
Add a twist to various sauces using yuzu. Try replacing the vinegar in Chimichurri or Chinese plum sauce with yuzu juice. Or add a twist to traditional sauce recipes like rémoulade or Jamaican Jerk sauce.
Citrus fruits are always a welcome addition to desserts, and yuzu is no different. For starters, you can use yuzu zest to add a zing to your panna cotta, flans, cheesecakes, and so on. Yuzu marmalade would make for an interesting ice cream, gelato, or sherbet flavor. You could also use yuzu in your cakes, pies, tarts, and cookies in place of more common citrus elements. Imagine the depth of flavor yuzushu will add to bundt cake parfaits, or trifles.
We already know that yuzu is used in teas and alcohol, but yuzu is also a great flavor for shakes and other alcoholic drinks.
Although yuzu has a distinct taste and aroma, it is incredible versatile. It mixes well with most flavors and is more than capable of elevating any recipe. Really, when it comes to using yuzu in the kitchen, your creativity is the only limit. Visit Eat Café Blog for more cooking-related tips.