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What exactly is this “ponzu” thing?

If you’ve waded even knee deep into Japanese cuisine, you’ve probably heard about ponzu sauce. You may have even eaten it too, because ponzu pokes its tasty head out in all kinds of delicious places in Japanese cuisine. Further still, ponzu is versatile enough that once you discover the flavor transformation it can pull off, you will be apt to try it with all kinds of Japanese food and perhaps even beyond.

Strictly speaking, there is ponzu sauce and shoyu (soy sauce) ponzu, but in practice, Japanese often say “ponzu” when referring to both. The ponzu element is made by simmering mirin (Japanese cooking rice wine), rice vinegar, some konbu seaweed. The mix is enhanced with a citrus infusion to taste. To this soy sauce is usually added.

It’s a simple sauce, but the citrus, salt, and vinegar tastes are all roundly accounted for. Some people find it a good replacement for mere soy sauce. Mix some ponzu up with a bit of daikon (Japanese radish), and you now have a chunkier, more substantial accompaniment to work with. Try it on tofu, or even on a salad. The uses really go on and on.

Ponzu is available in stores, but it’s really not hard to make yourself, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.

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