Ponzu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce made with a thin dashi broth and citrus juice, like sudachi, yuzu, or lemon. More often than not, it's mixed with soy sauce before using. Lighter and less salty than regular soy sauce with intense savory notes from the smoked bonito used to make the broth and the freshness of citrus juice, it's an ideal accompaniment to all sorts of dishes ranging from grilled meats to fried foods, or even sashimi.
Like many Japanese words, the name is lent from the Portuguese. It's a contraction of the Portuguese word for orchard (pomar), and the Japanese word for vinegar (su).
Although making it from scratch is possible, it requires quite a few esoteric ingredients (not everyone has dried sea kelp and smoked, dried bonito on hand). It's easier to buy it in premade bottled form. Nothing that comes in a bottle can ever taste as fresh as homemade, but it performs admirably when cooked into recipes, particularly when a bit of fresh citrus juice is added to it.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, the season in which grilled and fried foods can and should be consumed with reckless abandon. Ponzu-Marinated Carne Asada Tacos take a cue from the Korean tacos of LA's Kogi BBQ truck, combining chopped kimchi with ponzu-marinated skirt steak. Green Bean and Shiitake Tempura with Ponzu Mayonnaise features a mayo-based dipping sauce for crisp, golden deep-fried green beans and mushrooms. Miso and ponzu give the mayo an acidic, savory twist. It's also excellent on sandwiches or stirred into rice.
Round out your Memorial Day menu with a few more of our recipes below:
Memorial Day Cookout Menu
• Ponzu Marinated Carne Asada Tacos »
• Green Bean and Shiitake Tempura with Ponzu Mayonnaise »
• Korean Fried Chicken »
• Grilled Pecan-Crusted Pork Pinwheels »
• The Spotted Pig's Chargrilled Burgers »
• Grilled Artichoke with Mint and Chilies »
• Choco Tacos at Home »
About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and co-writes the blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.