Yuzu Ponzu and Why Japan Never Gets Bored of Soy Sauce
Secrets to keeping traditional flavors interesting, while keeping it simple
Japan’s favorite winter flavor
I love soy sauce. It’s light, flavorful, and generally a great complement to foods without overpowering an ingredient’s intrinsic flavors. As a dipping sauce to fresh sashimi or an added dash to my grilled salmon — soy sauce is the perfect epitome of how simple can be better when it comes to flavor.
But like any seasoning, you can only have it so often without getting bored, which is why soy sauce is often combined with other flavors to create new ones: added wasabi for sushi, a bit of sugar in teriyaki sauce, or kombu dashi broth to noodle soup bases, just to name a few.
Each may hold their own distinct flavor profile, but they are all based on soy sauce.
So while I love a dense or sweet sauce variant on occasion, for those looking for a more interesting profile without compromising the thing that makes soy sauce so great — its light simplicity — yuzu ponzu might be the exact flavor you’ve been looking for.
Trust me, it’s Japan’s favorite winter flavor.
Easy to make as it is healthy
The word ponzu combines the Dutch word ‘pons’, which means punch, with the Japanese word ‘zu’, meaning vinegar. A combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and citrus juice, ponzu is a rare, complete balanced flavor profile of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami — the entire five flavors in just three ingredients.
While any citrus can be used in ponzu, the citrus fruit yuzu is especially symbolic of wintertime in Japan, making it a popular choice for ponzu. A bit sour, a bit sweet, and a bit of bitterness to carry, the flavors of yuzu are so popular in the wintertime, it would be hard to go through the supermarket and not find a seasonal yuzu item on display.
Yuzu ponzu is as easy to make as it is healthy, a perfect balance of light so as to not mask the intrinsic flavor of foods, but complex enough to enhance and entertain a dish.
Beginner’s Yuzu Ponzu Recipe
- 120 ml of soy sauce
- 3–4 yuzu fruit (about 80ml of juice)
- 30 ml of rice vinegar
- 30 ml of mirin
- Juice and remove seeds from yuzu fruit, combine with soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin. Enjoy!
- Special note: Take the leftover peels and use it in your next bath to create a yuzu-yu ofuro. A popular and old Japanese tradition during the wintertime, yuzu citrus baths are thought to improve blood circulation and boost the immune system. It’s also just really relaxing and smells nice.
The refreshing winter flavor your kitchen may’ve been missing
When we think of dressings we often think of a combination of something with lots of oil or sugar, but sometimes the best way to dress our favorite foods has neither.
Simple in composition and making, yet complex enough to keep our taste buds entertained, yuzu ponzu has the complete flavor profile yet is subtle enough in its flavor to allow the natural flavor of our favorite foods to come through.
Use it as a dipping sauce for hot pot, a pouring sauce over your favorite fish or meat, a salad dressing, or to top off steamed tofu, perhaps yuzu ponzu is the refreshing winter flavor your kitchen may’ve been missing.