From Red Hot Kitchen, by Diana Kuan
An intensely citrusy and aromatic Japanese hot sauce, yuzu kosho is used in Japan to enliven a variety of foods, including sashimi, grilled chicken, miso soup, and hot-pot dishes. It traces its origins to the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where kosho refers to chiles in the local dialect. The area had traded with Korea and Southeast Asia for centuries, which may have an influence on the creation of this hot sauce in a country not known for spicy cuisine.
These days, yuzu kosho has been embraced by not only Japanese chefs but also chefs in the West who are discovering its versatility as both a cooking ingredient and condiment. And it takes less than 10 minutes to make in the food processor, or a bit longer if you want to roll up your sleeves and tackle it with a mortar and pestle. Traditionally, it is made by combining yuzu zest and juice with green chiles and salt to make a tangy, spicy paste with a texture similar to that of pesto. The flavor is most intense right after you make it and mellows out the longer it sits. I love using it to add a spicy and zesty punch to noodle soups, rice dishes, vegetables, chicken, and fish. And don’t feel like you have to stick to Japanese food. I’ve found the hot citrus flavor also makes a great match for spicy breakfasts or Mexican food (see Spicy Fish Tacos with Yuzu Kosho Slaw.)
- Zest the Meyer lemons and limes with a microplane or a grater until you get about 1/2 cup of zest. If you don't have yuzu juice, juice the Meyer lemons until you get ⅓ cup of juice. (Save the remaining Meyer lemons and limes for another use.)
- Combine the zest, juice, chiles, and salt in a mortar or food processor on the lowest setting. Grind with a pestle or process until you have a rough yellowish-green paste with a texture similar to pesto. Store in a jar with a tight-sealing lid for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator for the flavors to develop. The yuzu kosho will last in the fridge for 1 to 2 months.
Diana Kuan is a food writer and photographer based in Brooklyn. She is the author of Red Hot Kitchen, on cooking with Asian hot sauces, and The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, on Chinese food and culture in America. Her work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Time Out New York, and The Boston Globe, among other publications. In addition to writing and photography, Diana has taught cooking classes for the past 10 years in both Beijing and New York. Her favorite foods are dumplings, ramen, and tacos, usually with hot sauce on the side.