Yuzu: Everything you need to know

Yuzu is very fragrant and used in cooking for zest, peel, and very sour juice.
Yuzu is very fragrant and used in cooking for zest, peel, and very sour juice.  Photo: iStock

What is it?

‚ÄčYuzu is the fruit of a citrus tree (Citrus junos) originally from China but cultivated mostly in Japan and Korea, where it is called yuja. The size and shape of a mandarin and the colour, when ripe, of a lemon, it is very fragrant and used in cooking for zest, peel, and very sour juice. It is not a table fruit. There are a handful of small groves in Australia.

Why do we love it?

I went to the post office to pick up an online order of a box of yuzu last week. As the postmistress handed it over, she commented that she would miss their sweet aroma. It is as if, when the fruit gods invented citrus, they came to yuzu, and instead of formulating a new smell, they blended the scents of mandarin, grapefruit, Meyer lemon and lime and added a faint dark back note of hot bitumen.

Its sour juice carries these aromas aggressively and has a beautiful clean, sharp finish. It is a truly seasonal fruit with a short window of supply in late autumn and early winter, a brief, transient season yuzu-loving local cooks and chefs annually anticipate.

However, fresh yuzu is given an afterlife in Japanese products such as yuzu sake, ponzu, and yuzu juice, while in Korea it is made into marmalade, yuja-cheong, a base for yuja (yuzu) tea.

Who uses it?

Peter Gilmore from Sydney's Quay is known for his judicious use of yuzu with shellfish, folding blanched yuzu rind with creme fraiche into mud crab meat and serving marron tail on shellfish cream and yuzu gel. He uses yuzu's Japanese half-brother, sudachi, with Tasmanian rock lobster in chicken broth and ginger-scented milk curd.

Yuzu's aroma is captured in the desserts at Sake restaurants, in a sorbet and yuzu jelly with white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse.

In north-east Victoria, chef Michael Ryan from Provenance in Beechworth ferments yuzu rind with chilli and salt to make a condiment called yuzu koshu to accompany grilled meat. He has also made infusions of yuzu peel and yuzu flesh to make Yuzucello, a yuzu variant of limoncello, under his new brand, Beechworth Bitter Co.

Helen Goh recipe : Yuzu

Helen Goh's yuzu "cheesecake" with pistachio and kataifi pastry (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem

How do you use it?

Michael Ryan also uses grated yuzu over fresh sashimi and says that while a Microplane is suitable, a Japanese oroshigane grater with a bamboo brush stops the zest from clumping. Use yuzu zest as you would lemon zest in dressings, marinades, cakes and desserts.

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  • Yuzu works particularly well with dairy, so make yuzu ice-cream, or fold yuzu rind and horseradish through sour cream for an accompaniment to roast beef. Mix zest through sweetened ricotta for Japanese-inspired cannoli.
  • Grab your Cook's Companion, find the recipe for lemon delicious and substitute a yuzu for one of the lemons.
  • Imported yuzu juice is of very high quality and is used with garlic and good Japanese soy to make a marinade for roast chicken.
  • Mix 20ml of yuzu juice with two shots of gin, 15ml simple sugar syrup and 60ml of soda for a refreshing cocktail, or forget the gin and make a refreshing soft drink for everyone to enjoy.

Where do you get it?

Buy fresh yuzu from mountainyuzu.com.au. Go to simonjohnson.com for Yomato brand yuzu juice or essentialingredient.com.au for Tonami Yuzu juice.

Dan Murphy's carries a range of yuzu sake, yuzu gin, and a yuzu-flavoured umeshu or plum wine.

For yuzu dressing, yuzu sesame and yuzu koshu try Fuji Mart in Melbourne and Tokyo Mart in Sydney.

After more than 10 years of answering readers' vexing culinary questions, Richard Cornish has turned his focus to ingredients. Send ingredient suggestions to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or via Twitter and Instagram @Foodcornish.