Yuzu, the Trendy Citrus Fruit From Japan
Valued for its aromatic scent and sour flavour, yuzu fruit is the latest ingredient to take the Southern European culinary scene by storm.
The exact origin of the fragrant citrus fruit known as yuzu is unknown, although most agree that it was likely central China. A hybrid of the mandarin orange and the ichang papeda, it was used as a culinary ingredient almost exclusively in Japan and Korea – that is, until Spanish celebrity chef Ferran Adrià sampled it on a tour of Japan in the 2000s. It was love at first taste for the head of one of northern Spain’s most famous triple-Michelin-starred restaurants, and since he spread word of his discovery upon his return, yuzu has become increasingly prevalent on the menus of high-end restaurants and patisseries across Southern Europe.
What is yuzu fruit?
Despite its current trendy status, the yuzu fruit is nothing special to look at. It’s relatively small (approximately six centimetres in diameter) and roughly round, with a thick, pitted skin that starts out green but changes to yellow and eventually orange as it ripens. Although it can be used as a substitute for more common citrus fruits such as lime or lemon, it’s both more intensely scented and sourer than its better-known cousins. For this reason, it’s not usually eaten whole. Rather, yuzu recipes typically call for the fruit’s zest, rind or juice.
How to incorporate yuzu in your diet
In Japan, where yuzu is so ubiquitous that it’s often referred to as Japanese citron, there are almost unlimited uses for the fruit. Perhaps most commonly, it’s incorporated in yuzu sauces and seasonings such as ponzu or miso paste. However, other uses range from yuzu vinegar, tea, marmalade and cake to yuzu-flavoured crisps and yuzu juice (which can be fermented to produce yuzu wine or liqueur).
In Western culinary culture, the fruit is most often used to make sweet treats and desserts. Visit a Japanese fusion restaurant in France, Italy or Spain, and the chances are you’ll find it on the menu in the form of a yuzu cream or cheesecake. If you want to cook with the fruit at home, you’re in luck. Where yuzu used to be found exclusively in Japanese specialty stores, it’s now more readily available in one form or another in mainstream supermarkets.
Potential health benefits of yuzu
Flavour isn’t the only reason to eat yuzu. It’s also a superfood, with a low calorie content and high nutritional value – most notably, large concentrations of vitamin C (a single serving gives you 59% of your daily requirement) and vitamin A (31%). These vitamins are associated with a range of health benefits, from helping stave off attacks of gout to slowing age-related macular degeneration and reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. The antioxidants found in yuzu also promote healthy brain activity, while compounds known as hesperidin and naringin are thought to help prevent harmful blood clots.
With yuzu essential oils also credited with stress- and anxiety-relieving properties, it’s no wonder this unassuming Asian fruit is being hailed as a natural wonder.
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