Wednesday, February 25, 2009
My second Terms post was a close call between Ponzu and Yuzu-koshou. These are the two most common condiments I use routinely. Both have a citrus backbone within the saltiness, and both are extremely versatile. I use them for many purposes that were likely never intended by the original inventors, I'm sure. Yuzu-koshou won in the end, because I was pretty sure I had explained ponzu sometime ago.
Yuzu-koshou (or kosho, depending on where in Japan you are from and what school of romanization you prefer) literally translates to Yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus) black pepper. Interestingly, however, there is no black pepper in Yuzu-koshou. Apparently, the word Koshou can also mean red pepper in the O-ita Prefecture in the Southern Island of Kyushu from where Yuzu-koshou originated.
Frequently, Yuzu-koshou looks almost identical to fresh ground wasabi... until you smell it. Potently fragrant with that intense and distinctive yuzu citrus scent, it has a tantalizing spiciness to it that is rounded out by a gentle saltiness. It combines a peppery kick with a clean citrus finish for a very appealing savory combination.
It is supposed to be easy to make Yuzu-koshou if you have a ton of yuzu, which in itself is a luxury item in the US (at least where I am). Since our yuzu tree did not quite produce enough yuzu to make Yuzu-koshou with this past year, I didn't get to try making it at home yet, but the recipe seems simple enough:
1. Pulverize yuzu skin and hot peppers together. Green hot peppers are typically used, but red peppers should be fine as well.
2. Add salt and yuzu juice to taste.
3. Bottle and keep cold to store.
I buy mine or use the bottles my very generous mother brings me from Japan, but if our yuzu tree yields a big harvest, I am definitely going to try making it with our very own Super Hot Peppers!
Yuzu-koshou is great mixed with yogurt to make salad dressing or dissolved in soups to add a touch of refreshing heat. I eat tofu with it, and I even use to love sashimi with it instead of the traditional wasabi. Most steamed vegetables come to life with a touch of Yuzu-koshou on the side, and it's also great with grilled chicken or pork. I have used Yuzu-koshou as the guiding flavor for simple mushroom pastas, and even added a touch of it in grilled cheese sandwiches for a fusion kick to the traditional taste. It is honestly one of the most versatile condiments I have ever had in my kitchen! (Those of you advanced JP food connoisseurs, Yuzu-koshou in natto is GREAT!)
Luckily for those of us with a Japanese grocery store nearby, I have seen Yuzu-koshou sold at all of the stores in different packages. If you ask your friendly grocer, I'm sure they can point you to the jar or tube of the stuff.