Monday, August 24, 2009

Beyond yuzu: intriguing Asian citrus juices

I don't know how many of you have encountered the yuzu, which is an East Asian citrus fruit with a very complex tart flavor (it makes our regulation lemons taste like an amateur citrus). The fruit itself looks like a very small grapefruit and it has a bumpy skin, sort of like an Ugli fruit. It can probably be found fresh in Chinatowns, but most of us have probably only had it in juice form, and probably in a restaurant.

Well, just when I was all smug about having cooked with yuzu, I ran into two more Asian citrus juices at this year's summer Fancy Food Show. I spoke with a guy named James Felling (from Chicago) whose company is importing Asian citrus products from Yakami Orchards in Japan.

In addition to yuzu juice (and yuzu marmalade and zest), WA Imports is also selling bottles of pure kabosu juice and pure sudachi juice. The kabosu, which is related to the yuzu, is harvested green but matures to yellow. The sudachi is a small green citrus that in Japan is used to flavor all manner of foods from soft drinks to ice cream.

Jim set me up with 3 little glasses of citrus juice so I could taste the differences, and the differences were pronounced. I will borrow his tasting descriptions, because they were spot on.

Yuzu: Tastes like lemon juice but with undertones of tangerine or orange.
Kabosu: Tastes like lemon juice but with notes of mint and melon.
Sudachi: Tastes like lime juice but with accents of pepper and cumin.

At the moment WA Imports is negotiating to have a retail presence for all of these products. Currently, however, they are still only available to chefs and restaurants. Keep an eye out, though.

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