What are Yuzu?

Yuzu are renowned for their citric sharpness and heady, floral fragrance. The East Asian fruit resembles a small and stout, bumpy lemon, but is quite different to the usual fruits found in the citrus sections of British supermarkets.

First, its plump white pips are far larger than that of a lime or lemon, meaning it's harder to extract segments of flesh as you might with an orange or grapefruit. Also, when halved and juiced, a yuzu produces less liquid than British chefs may expect from familiar citrus fruits. So if a recipe asks for the juice of one lemon, then a yuzu substitute might require the juice of two or more.

Despite this, yuzu are exceedingly fragrant fruits that are really exciting to cook with. As with all citrus fruits, the zest is the most intensely aromatic part, rich with essential oils. It can be grated using a regular Microplane, or sliced using a paring knife to be dried or candied. Slivers of yuzu rind might also be used in marmalade, and it is also the traditional garnish in a savoury chawanmushi custard.

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The juice is sharp but fragrant – closest to the blossom notes of the bergamot oranges used in Earl Grey tea. Like lime or lemon juice, yuzu juice has both savoury and sweet applications. It can be used as a dressing for salads or bowls of edamame, to brighten a vegetable curry, or to lift a fillet of fish.

Its sweet applications are endless – it could be added to a yuzu curd for breakfast, stirred into a tart for dessert, or mixed into a plain cake batter to give afternoon teas an exotic edge.

Often yuzu juice is mixed with honey and used in a variety of drinks from matcha tea to cocktails.

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Origins and Uses

It's believed that yuzus are a hybrid of sour mandarin and a rare Western Chinese fruit called an ichang papeda.

The fruit originated in central China and Tibet, but was introduced to Japan and Korea during the seventh and eighth century, where the yuzu first started to be cultivated.

Yuzu is a traditional ingredient in East Asian kitchens and the fruit is believed to have medicinal properties.

They are often halved and added to hot baths, particularly over the winter solstice period when yuzu baths are a traditional ritual, believed to promote relaxation as well as bringing good health and possible riches.

It is a rare delight to get your hands on fresh yuzu. They are not grown in Britain, so the Japan Centre imports them – particularly over winter and early spring when they are in season. The Japan Centre also stocks wide ranges of yuzu-flavoured products, from flavoured marinades to traditional sweets.

Yuzu juice is an easier product to transport than fresh yuzu, and it is more and more often seen on supermarket shelves. It is excellent for making homemade ponzu, or for drizzling onto pancakes, edamame beans, and salads.

Spicy pepper yuzu paste (yuzu kosho, in Japanese) is another popular and versatile product – a delicious accompaniment to seafood and red meat.

Yuzu is also used to flavour different teas (such as matcha green tea and light black teas) and alcohol, with yuzu flavoured wines, sake or shochu appearing frequently in East Asian-inspired cocktails.