This post was originally going to include three ponzu variations, but after I squeezed the juice from a couple dozen yuzu and an unbelievable citrusy perfume overpowered the apartment, my wife asked me to save some juice for shochu cocktails! Wait -- let me back up: A few months ago I met a very nice woman at a Japan Society event and somehow we got to talking about yuzu, a variety of Japanese citrus. Originally from Japan, she told me she grows yuzu in her country house in upstate New York (in portable planters she moves inside in the winter), and graciously offered to send me some. A couple of weeks ago -- lo and behold -- a box-full of yuzu arrived!
Now that I had my hands on yuzu, what do to with them? I peeled the rind to make yuzu-kosho, which I'm still experimenting with (more on that to come). And I squeezed the juice for ponzu (and now, cocktails). Ponzu is versatile, citrus-based dipping sauce. There are tons of varieties of ponzu, with or without vinegar. We made two: A simple, simple ponzu from 1 part yuzu juice to 1 part soy sauce, which was fantastic because the yuzu was so fresh, and another more elaborate recipe, the signature yuzu of my researcher Tomoko's mom, which I share below. (Thanks Tomoko & Tomoko's mom!) Both are great, variations on a theme. Besides yuzu, by the way, you can use any kind of citrus for ponzu, or a mixture of citrus, like a combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit.
Now, what to eat with the ponzu? Yudofu is a natural, and so incredibly easy. Yudofu is tofu hot pot, a standard in the winter. Place a 6-inch or so piece of kombu on the bottom of a hot pot (or any vessel you use), add silken tofu, napa cabbage, Japanese negi or green onions, and mushrooms (we used maitake from our farmers market, but shiitake or oysters or a combo of them are great, too). Fill the hot pot 3/4 of the way with water. Cover and bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes and it's ready. Bring the hot pot to the dining table and go do town, dipping cooked ingredients into ponzu to eat. Simple, clean, delicious and so satisfying. Tomoko's ponzu follows after the jump. Do you have a favorite ponzu recipe? Please share in the comments!
4 yuzu (or combination of citrus)
1 cup juice from the yuzu
Finely chopped rind from the yuzu
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
2 tablespoon mirin
2 teaspoons shichmi togarashi (seven spice powder)
Small yellow onion (about 1/4 pound) finely chopped
Combine all the ingredients in a jar and allow the flavors to mingle overnight or for at least 12 hours. Strain and use as dipping sauce. Can keep in the fridge in a closed jar for a couple of weeks.