Ponzu sauce is used heavily in Japanese cuisine. It possesses a sweet, sour and slightly salty flavor that complements a wide range of food. In Japan, ponzu is made using a special citrus fruit called "yuzu," which is an ingredient that can be difficult to obtain outside of Asia. Western cooks usually substitute the yuzu with other citrus ingredients (typically lime juice) in order to closely replicate the flavor of authentic ponzu. Ponzu commonly is served with sashimi, tempura, and rice. Cooks in the United States can purchase the Kikkoman brand of ponzu sauce both in an original formula and one infused with lime; it is used for both a dressing and a sauce.
Ponzu is not difficult to make, although for cooks outside Japan, some of the ingredients may be difficult to source. Typically, mirin (a type of sweet Japanese rice wine) is simmered with rice vinegar, bonito flakes, and seaweed. After the mixture comes to a boil, it is taken off the heat and strained to remove the larger particles. Yuzu juice is then added to the mix and then poured into glass containers, where it is then refrigerated for up to one week. In the bottled forms, the ponzu typically tends to have stabilizers added to it to prolong shelf life, which in turn can adversely make the sauce taste thin and slightly bitter.
Replicating the flavor of yuzu can be difficult for Western cooks. The citrus has a strong tart flavor that is reminiscent of lemons and limes, but yet still is uniquely different. Yuzu can be purchased in some Japanese specialty markets, but it can have a metallic flavor and be rather thin. Some cooks choose to mix grapefruit and lemon juices to try and create the flavor of yuzu; orange juice is sometimes added to create sweetness.
Ponzu is excellent for dipping or for marinating. Fish, meat, and tofu all greatly benefit from being marinated in ponzu and are delicious when grilled. When used as a dipping sauce, it complements a wide variety of sushi dishes, spring rolls, and tempura vegetables, along with other various plain grilled foods. Many Japanese restaurants serve ponzu along with other dipping sauces as an accompaniment to hot pot dishes; hot pots create a casual dining atmosphere and combine a multitude of delicious, fun flavors.
Variations of PonzuEdit
Experiment with ponzu - the unique flavor profile can be a surprise! You can try making your own custom batches of ponzu at home. Consider making batches with various citrus juices to play around with the flavor. Try making ponzu shoyu, which is ponzu with soy sauce. Some cooks even use sake instead of the rice wine to create a more tart, bitter flavor. For a more Western-styled dish, try caramelizing shallots or scallions and adding them to a ponzu, then serve it as a dipping sauce.