Today I’d like to share a cheat’s version of a sauce that’s quite hard to find ready-made in the UK: ponzu shōyu (ポン酢醤油). It’s a great match for umami vegetables like broccoli, as well as more classical fish or tofu applications.
Classically, ponzu is prepared by simmering dashi ingredients (dried kombu seaweed and smoked bonito flakes) in a mixture of vinegar and mirin, and later adding citrus juice – usually yuzu. Shōyu simply refers to soy sauce, or in this case the version of ponzu incorporating the same. Supposedly, the citrus element was inspired by the ‘punch’ beloved of saucy European sailors. This explains why the pon (ポン) of ponzu is written in the angular katakana syllabary normally reserved for words of foreign origin.
Although kombu and smoked bonito are a nice basis for anything, I think it’s acceptable to leave them out of a quick ponzu shōyu. Besides, omitting them also removes the need for simmering. As for yuzu juice, which might as well be extracted from unicorns given its rarity and price in the UK (rarely under £5/100ml bottled, and you can forget about fresh), I have no qualms about using lemon juice instead.
As we all know, brassicae love salt and lemon. It is no surprise, therefore, that this simplified ponzu shōyu makes an excellent dressing for broccoli.
recipe: roasted broccoli with ponzu shōyu
umami greens with added zing
ingredients (for 4-6)
- 1 head broccoli
- about 2 tsps (olive) oil
- 50ml (1/4 cup) mirin
- 2tbsps lemon juice
- 2 tsps soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- lemon peel (to garnish)
- Preheat the oven to about 180°C.
- Combine the mirin, lemon juice, soy sauce and vinegar and whisk together. Cover and leave to allow the flavours to combine. (If you do have kombu and katsuobushi and would like to achieve that elusive hint of smoked seaside, simmer a small piece of kombu and a pinch of katsuobushi in the mirin and vinegar, then allow to cool and steep. Finally, remove the kombu and kastuobushi with a strainer and add the other ingredients.)
- Remove the florets from the broccoli and cut each in half vertically. This exposes a flat surface area for heat to enter, ensuring a well-cooked stem. It also looks nice in my opinion.
- Whittle the dark outer skin and the floret stumps from the broccoli’s main stem and slice off the tough end where it was harvested. Take what’s left and cut into batons. (The broccoli stem is also great for pickling if cut into thin coins.)
- Toss the broccoli florets and batons in a baking tin with the oil, cover with foil and place in the oven.
- After 20-30 minutes, check the broccoli for tenderness. It will be getting a little crispy in places (don’t worry, it’s a good thing). If it’s not yet as tender as you’d like, add a splash of boiling water to the tin. Meanwhile, take a small piece of lemon peel, pare off the pith and slice very finely for the garnish.
- When the broccoli is done to your satisfaction, place in a serving bowl or bowls, dress it with the ponzu (saving some for later) and scatter over the lemon peel.