Ponzu: The Japanese Condiment And What To Eat It With
Image Credit: iStock, Ponzu is a delicious accompaniment for Japanese meals.

Ponzu is essentially soy sauce with the zing of citrus, most commonly yuzu. "Pon" is Dutch for "punch," a word that was borrowed from Dutch by Japanese in the 17th century, during the time of the Dutch East India Company. "Su" translates to "vinegar," one of the sauce’s main ingredients. 

Despite the name having a Dutch influence, the ingredients used to make ponzu are essentially Japanese. The sauceuses rice vinegar, mirin (rice wine), katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes), and konbu (kelp). Fish flakes and kelp add umami. Some ponzu recipes use sake instead of mirin for a stronger flavour. To make ponzu, the four main ingredients are cooked and then the finishing touch—citrus—is added. The citrus fruit used is usually bitter orange or yuzu. 

Recently, the word "ponzu" has been used to describe both the light citrus dressing without soy sauce, and also the darker sauce made with soy. Supermarkets have shown which one out of the two has a longer shelf-life: it’s the latter, since ponzu without soy is too delicate on its own to last a long time.

Ponzu in most pantries is made with either lemon juice or yuzu instead of sudachi, which is harder to find and more expensive. Yuzu has even gone on to find a place in the kitchens of North America and is used as a trendy ingredient by chefs and bartenders.

Mainly eaten as a dip with seared meat, shabu shabu (a kind of Japanese hot pot), soba noodles, sashimi and even gyoza (dumplings), ponzu is also served with tempura.

The citric acid in ponzu makes it a great marinade, especially for dishes like ceviche that use raw fish. The sauce is not exactly used during cooking, but a few dashes are added at the end of cooking. Soups and stir fries are given new life with ponzu.