Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Day sixty-five: Yuzu / 柚子

Top: Yuzu marmalade
Courtesy of Oya Kazunari's mother

Middle: Yuzu jellies
Ninki, ¥400

Bottom: Candied yuzu peel
Train station shop, ¥420

Also known at citron or Chinese lemon, yuzu is a hybrid citrus fruit that originated in China but worked its way over to Japan many centuries ago. Aesthetically, yuzu got the worst of the gene pool, looking like a wizened grapefruit with terminal cellulite and golden skin marred by green blotches and black speckles. But the skin is full of the most intoxicating of aromatic oils and the flesh is heavy with a refreshing and versatile juice.

Yuzu's perfume and flavor have a complex, honeyed quality that makes other citrus fruit seem one-dimensional. Like all citrus, yuzu has a "sunny" quality, but if oranges conjure up blazing sun on a humid summer day, yuzu is more like an unexpected sunbreak on a grey winter afternoon, a light and warmth that you just want to bask in. And appropriately, some Japanese drop a muslin-wrapped yuzu into the bath on the shortest day of the year.

Although yuzu crazes have sporadically swept both coasts of the US over the past few years, it looks like yuzu products are still not available as they should be, so I'm stocking up while I can. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I ate crushed ice with homemade yuzu syrup on one of the hottest days of the summer. When the weather changed and I had a bit of a sore throat, I soothed is with a hot, gooey drink of yuzu thickened with kuzu starch. I've drunk straight yuzu juice and yuzu-infused liquor. I ate the above marmalade with yogurt, and topped many recent salads with a yuzu-based dressing.

I even bought yuzu-scented lip balm from a venerable Kyoto cosmetics house (think "geisha Sephora"). I fully expect that there will come a day this grim, grey Seattle winter when I will be found curled into a fetal ball, covered in yuzu balm and crooning, "Yu...zu...zomething to me..."

No comments: