Yuzu is a wonderful citrus fruit that is virtually unknown outside of Japan and China. I certainly had never heard of it until I came to Japan; a fact that irritates me more than you can imagine. The flavour and fragrance of yuzu is complex, with musky, spicy and herbaceous notes (similar to clove or thyme) matching a flowery citrus aroma. It is this complexity that allows yuzu to simultaneously deepen and lighten earthy winter dishes.
In Japan it’s used in many ways: as a fragrant citrus note in clear winter soups; to add depth of flavour to winter sushi; as an ingredient in tea or fruit liquers; or even throwing the whole fruit in to perfume to a hot bath. However, through all of these my favourite use of yuzu is to make yuzu kosho, a condiment so simple and amazing that I find it hard to believe that it is not more popular worldwide.
This dish showcases yuzu kosho by teaming it with simple grilled meats. The soft texture and sweet flavour of each of these meats is a perfect match for the salty, complex astrigency of the yuzu kosho. It’s also great served with Japanese beef.
To make the yuzu kosho, take a large handful or two of green chillies. Split them lengthways. deseed them with the back of your thumbnail and remove the stem. The heat of your yuzu kosho will depend on the heat of your chillies, so choose them with this in mind. Yuzu kosho is not usually too hot, but however hot you want to make it is at your discretion.
With a peeler take all of the zest from the yuzu and finely mince it with a knife. Add the chillies and yuzu to a mortar with 1-2 tablespoons of very good quality mineral salt, and pound it all together. I like to leave it a little chunky, but it is also often heavily pounded to a very smooth paste. Remove it all to a clean jar and let the flavours come together for at least an hour or so but preferably overnight. The yuzu kocho will keep for weeks, so you can make it well in advance.
If you don’t have yuzu there is no real substitute, however, you might be able to recreate something similar using the zest of half a lime and half an orange, with a pinch of fresh thyme leaves. I haven’t tried this but I’m just hypothesising that the flavour might be at least remotely similar.
Scallops, pork and chicken all go beautifully well with yuzu kosho so to make the dish pictured, you just need to grill them. You can use slightly less salt in your seasoning because the yuzu kosho is very, very salty. I’ve serverd this with an assortment of Japanese pickles.