Ponzu sauce is a fundamental Japanese condiment. Its versatility is unmatched-use it as a dipping sauce, a marinade, even the base of a salad dressing. When my parents first opened a restaurant in Miami in the 70’s, this was the recipe they used. Over 40 years later, this is still the ponzu sauce we use in our restaurants today. And like anything homemade, it beats the bottled stuff by a mile. Once you taste it, you’ll never want to purchase it again. The bracing tartness is offset by the most intense smoky umami mouthfeel. Sounds like a sound bite for some snooty wine right? Well homemade ponzu may just blow your mind in the same way. And it’s so simple to make, the most difficult ingredient is patience-the longer you let it sit the better it will taste. So let’s get to it!
Ponzu = Umami Bomb
A jolt of saltiness, a punch of tartness, and a hint of smoky ocean….ponzu seamlessly combines all of these flavors in a perfectly balanced sauce. The magic lies in a few key ingredients. Lemon brings sweet/sour notes, rice vinegar provides sweet tanginess, and kombu and katsuobushi add a smoky touch of the sea. Soy sauce anchors all of those flavors with its salty depth. Unlike many ponzu sauces, ours does not contain any sugar or mirin. If you prefer to have a milder flavor, you can add a couple teaspoons of sugar or a tablespoon of mirin.
Once you have these ingredients, it couldn’t be easier or more straight forward to make your own ponzu.
This is where it gets hard. Your ponzu sauce will smell so good, you’ll want to start using it right away. But good things come to those who wait, and while you can start enjoying it in a day, it will be so much better if you wait a week. The ponzu mellows out as it sits and steeps. We usually make ponzu sauce in 5 gallon quantities at the restaurants and leave the kombu and katsuobushi in the container the entire time, pouring off the sauce as needed. But for smaller quantities at home, it’s easiest to strain it. So after a week, strain the ponzu into a clean container, being sure to press down on the solids to get out every savory drop.
This recipe yields about a cup but you could easily double or triple it if you would like to keep it on hand. It keeps for weeks in the fridge.
How to Use Ponzu
It would be much easier to list those few things that a drop of ponzu wouldn’t enhance. At the restaurant, we use it in both our tuna and beef tataki. It’s the traditional dipping sauce for hot pots, like Shabu Shabu. Ponzu pairs well with fried foods and fatty grilled fish, cutting through the richness. Almost anywhere that you would pour in a little soy sauce for a blast of flavor, ponzu would be excellent. Marinades. Dipping sauces. Stir fries. The possibilities are endless.
Add a dollop of your homemade ponzu to:
Let me know the ways you find to incorporate this classic condiment into your life. Leave a comment below, rate the recipe, and of course tag us in our pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¾ rice vinegar
- juice from 1 lemon, strained of all pulp and seeds
- ½ cup packed katsuobushi (about 10 grams)
- 1 piece kombu (4”x4” about the size of your hand) cut into several pieces
- Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, katsuo bushi, and kombu in a container.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 days but preferably for 1 week. Strain through a colander, pressing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Transfer ponzu to a clean container and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce keeps for several weeks.
*This recipe makes a traditional ponzu sauce, which does not include any sugar. If you find it too bracing for your taste, add a teaspoon of two of sugar to mellow the flavor. You can also add a Tablespoon of mirin which will also tame some of the bite.
Keywords: ponzu, asian condiments, soy sauce, japanese