4.20.10 You Say Yuzu, I Say Citron
I’ve decided to post about this delicious Korean “tea” because, even though it’s delicious hot and is particularly helpful during cold and flu season, it can also be enjoyed on ice throughout the warmer months. I was first served this wonderfully flavorful brew at Jin Soon in the East Village, where I occasionally have a pedicure (although I stopped wearing polish on my toes a couple of years ago). They call it “citrus tea.” When I asked about it they told me it comes “pre-mixed,” and when I pressed them they said it was from a can with Korean writing on it. Hmmm…I could tell it didn’t really have any actual tea in it, but I was perplexed by the type of citrus, as it was sweet without any hint of bitterness despite the pulpy rind floating in it. I next encountered this tea at HanGawi, a favorite vegetarian Korean restaurant, where the ginger tea with pine nuts is also a winner. And by then I got a clue and googled it to find out just what exactly I was drinking.
I learned that it’s a popular tea in Korea, but it’s really more of a marmalade—fruit (with the rind intact) and sugar or honey cooked down to a thick, pulpy paste. It can also be seen as Yuzu tea (yuja cha in Korean), although yuzu and citron are two different fruits. Yuzu (Citrus ichangensis x Citrus reticulata) is a cold-hardy Asian citrus fruit that originated in China and was then introduced to Japan and Korea. It is rarely eaten as a fruit, but both the juice and zest are prized in cooking. Citron (Citrus medica), on the other hand, most likely also originated in Asia, but subsequently spread throughout the Mediterranean. The flavors of the two seem comparable—a combination of lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine—though I think that yuzu is a bit more tart. Citron may bear more of a resemblance to the kumquat, which is eaten rind and all. In fact, the Cantonese often preserve kumquats in salt. A batch of the fruit is buried in dry salt inside a glass jar and, over time, all the juice from the fruit diffuses into the salt. The fruit shrinks, becoming wrinkled and brown, and the salt combines with the juice to make a dark brine. A few salted kumquats with a few teaspoons of the brine are mixed with hot water to make a remedy for sore throats. A jar of such preserved kumquats can last several years and still keep its taste. (I have the last kumquats of the season in my fridge and just may try this!) ANYWAY, look for a jar (or can?) of the stuff in your local Korean grocer, or order it online here, or here, as I did. whatever you see—citron tea, yuzu spread, citron/yuzu marmalade—simply stir a couple of spoonfuls into hot water to enjoy as a delicious hot drink and a remedy for the common cold. In warmer months, blend it hot and then chill, to serve over ice, garnished with a sprig of mint, for a refreshing cooler.