From East Asia with flavour: everything you need to know about the yuzu fruit
If you’ve ever visited East Asia, watched a cookery programme from the comfort of your home, had the chance to have a meal out in a Japanese restaurant, or read a food magazine or website, chances are you’ll have come across the yuzu fruit.
Yuzu is a citrus fruit that looks like a larger, uneven lemon. It originates from China, but it’s now mainly grown in Japan and Korea, where it’s used in savoury dishes, sauces, drinks and to make jam.
Yuzu’s tart, fragrant flavour, which is reminiscent of grapefruit, lemon and mandarin, has made it a hugely popular ingredient in East Asia, and now in the West too.
As it contains vitamin C, A, carotenoids and flavonoids, Yuzu is not just delicious – it’s beneficial to our health too.
No-one in Britain knows more about yuzu fruit than Maxim McDonald, Director of ingredient supplier Gerald McDonald, and Masterchef finalist, Japanese cuisine specialist and owner of restaurant Koj, Andrew ‘Koj’ Kojima.
I have caught up with Maxim and Koj ahead of their Ingredient Discover Session at Food Matters Live on 30 June, to find out more about this fascinating, versatile fruit.
Yuzu has become very popular in the West in the last few years. Why do you think that is and what is so appealing about this citrus fruit?
Maxim McDonald: Consumers are looking for more and more exotic products to try out, citrus fruit generally have been on the rise recently due to their vitamin C credentials. Yuzu is fantastically deep and complex in taste – a blend of grapefruit, lemon and mandarin – and I will never get bored of seeing people’s happy faces when they taste it for the first time!
Yuzu can be used in a variety of products, foods, drinks and recipes. What are its best uses?
MM: In Asia, yuzu has been traditionally used in sauces and dressings, such as ponzu. In the West we’ve seen a lot of usage in drinks, desserts and seafood. As it is similar to lemon, it is very versatile and can be used for sweet and savoury applications.
Whilst yuzu is very popular, outside of Asia it’s mainly used in restaurants by professional chefs. Do you think we’ll start seeing it in home kitchens soon?
Andrew Kojima: We already ARE seeing it in homes – both as an ingredient to use on its own and in other products such as sauces, yoghurts, drinks and even cleaning products! That’s a great way for it to become more familiar and the more adventurous cooks will look to chefs for ideas and inspiration of different ways to use it.
Although Yuzu originated in China, it’s mainly grown in Japan now. What other Japanese ingredients are enjoying newly found popularity outside of Japan, and in particular in Britain and the rest of Europe?
MM: Japanese cuisine has been in fashion for a long time now, and for good reason! On the herbs/spices side of the business we’ve been promoting sansho, a fresh and lemony small pepper which gives the consumer a pleasant and tingly sensation on their tongue. Also ume plum juice, a tart, sweet, and aromatic fruit used in many alcoholic beverages in Japan.
Japanese dishes and ingredients such as sushi, mirin, rice vinegar, nori and wakame, have been very popular in the west for the last two decades. Why do you think this is?
AK: The level of interest in cooking in general has been on the rise in Britain – and the added interest has increased abilities and ambitions. Japanese cooking in particular has been moving from an expensive, niche cuisine to a broader and more democratised cuisine – and increasingly across the country outside the metropolis. Competent cooks who have added cuisines like Thai, Chinese and Indian to their repertoires are now looking to new cuisines and thanks to online shopping it is even easier to get hold of Japanese ingredients.
What’s a popular and easy way to use yuzu, that anyone could try at home?
AK: Perhaps the simplest and purest way to experience yuzu is to substitute it for lemon in a cocktail – it goes particularly well with vodka and gin based cocktails. Similarly, it brings a new and vibrant zing to sweet and sour desserts such as posset or tarte au citron.