ponzu

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Ponzu-Shoyu

A couple of the methods I've employed for storing the finished product, used soy sauce bottle and empty Sake bottle.

The most popular condiment in Japan, bar none, is Ponzu-Shoyu. A citrusy, soy based dipping sauce, it can be found commercially made by dozens of companies. It is, however, extremely easy to make yourself and the results are not only far superior to anything bought from a store shelf but also keeps almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. Simple ingredients, simple preparation, amazing flavor and versatility. In Japan it's eaten with everything from Tempura, to Shabu-Shabu, to noodles, to sushi and sashimi. Some of the ingredients I'll be listing you can only find at a Japanese grocer, but none of them are expensive and if you make it in bulk you'll not need to make the trip to one more than once a year. It's used fairly sparingly, being that it's fairly strong flavored, so a little will last you long while (unless you're like me and drink it straight outa the bottle...). The combination of flavors makes it my personal favorite condiment ever, but, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm fairly biased toward the Japanese palette of flavors. That aside, I can't recommend this enough! Make some, dammit! The ingredients (for a 2 cup batch): 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons Usukuchi Soy Sauce (regular soy sauce will work, but back off to an even cup) ¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons Unseasoned Rice Vinegar 2-3 Tablespoons mild Honey (optional) ½ cup Lemon juice, Lime juice, or combination of (lately I've been using straight Lime, but your call) If on the extremely off chance you find fresh Sudachi, or Green or Yellow Yuzu at the Japanese market, use that! One 5g packet Shaved Bonito flakes 3 inch x 3 inch square of Konbu (dried giant kelp) The procedure: Now here's where I get to talk about some of the basic concepts that run through all of Japanese cooking. There are a couple things to remember here about the handling of these ingredients, and how these ideas should be remembered whenever you use them for any reason. Boiling = Bad. You never want to boil anything containing Soy sauce or Bonito... Period. Miso also falls into the “never boil” category, but there's no Miso in this recipe so I'll leave that discussion for another post. If you boil Soy sauce it tends to give it an astringent after-taste, and if you boil Bonito you loose a lot of the depth it can bring to the table. You also never want to boil any citrus juice if you want it to be a star player in the final product. Doing so takes away a lot of the freshness of flavor, and just dulls the punch fresh citrus juice provides, which is the entire reason for using it. That said, you'll understand why I structured this recipe the way I did.

Damp cloth, not dripping wet, and don't worry about getting all of it.

Remove the Konbu from the package and wipe with a damp cloth to remove most of the powdery white coating. Don't be anal about this, you don't need to get rid of all traces. Next, place the vinegar in a non-reactive pot (meaning NOT aluminum, stainless steel or glass preferably) with the Konbu and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, dissolve the honey into the vinegar (if using) and add the Bonito flakes and turn the heat down a bit. Allow to steep, much like making tea, at just under a boil for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Adding the Bonito. I was making a much larger batch in this build than the recipe I'm providing, no difference in concept though. Don't boil it!

Pour the vinegar through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl to remove the Konbu and Bonito and discard them. Add the Soy sauce and citrus juice. TASTE! If the vinegar is too strong, add a splash more soy. Want the citrus to be more prominent? Add some more! Once you are happy with the results pour the Ponzu into an empty bottle for storage. I used the empty Usukuchi bottle, and have also been known to use empty Sake bottles to store smaller batches. So throw out that bottle of Kikkoman Ponzu, and make some yourself! Take notes on the process to remember how you tweaked it to suit your own tastes for the next time you decide to make this (and you will). The balance of soy, vinegar, and citrus with the undertones of Dashi are what make this my favorite condiment, and what makes me want to always have some on hand. Combined with it's sheer versatility, it's a must have for any aficionado of Japanese cuisine. Live well, eat better, and as Francis says, “good luck in the kitchen!” Jack