Ponzu sauce is one of the fundamental sauces of Japanese cookery. I won’t list the others, because the chances are you won’t care. But ponzu is one worth remembering. At its simplest, it is soy sauce mixed with lemon juice, providing the best of both worlds – toasty salty soy, and bright acerbic lemon. Risking your interest level again, I will say that in Japan it is not lemons but sudachi citron that are used, which are a more acidic citrus and not readily available in the West. Consequently, until I get a backyard and my own sudachi tree, my ponzu will always be inferior.
However, we live in an age of miracle and wonder, and in the same spirit as Julia Child when she decided to decode French cuisine for the American kitchen, I have decoded Japanese ponzu for the American supermarket. Even my inferior version is amazingly good. Make it, and you will never dip your wontons in anything else again.
1 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 cup good soy sauce (use naturally-brewed Kikkoman, if possible)
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1 small handful dried bonito flakes
2 square inches of kelp (kombu)
Mix all ingredients and leave it to stand for a day. Strain it well, pour it into a mason jar, and put it somewhere dark and cool for three months.
Since you’re going to be waiting all that time anyway, why not try your hand at some liqueurs? The bottle on the right contains my top secret recipe for Fernet Branca. Fernet is a liqueur so vile and dangerous that it is the national drink of Argentina. Only chefs drink it. Fergus Henderson, in his slaughterhouse of a recipe book The Whole Beast, provides this recipe:
2 parts Fernet Branca
1 part creme de menthe
Mix together and drink. Do not be put off by the color.
I would add, don’t be put off by the color of any of your bodily secretions after drinking it, either. It’s worth it, since it cures everything from the plague to gout. Though, unfortunately, no diseases invented after 1830.