Ponzu is a versatile citrus sauce that I first encountered as a marinade in a bottle in Japan. It’s a brightly flavoured sauce made with yuzu citrus fruit blended with soy sauce, rice vinegar, dashi, and mirin. It is often used to flavour all kinds of dishes in the Japanese kitchen. Nabe was one in particular that I recall – a hot-pot of vegetables simmering over a small gas flame set in the middle of the dining room table, served into small bowls and drizzled with Ponzu, each to ones own taste. For it’s complexity of flavour, it was always a mystery to me what was in it especially as yuzu is impossible to find here. As good fortune would have it, I discovered that it is after all a very simple sauce to whip up.
The mystery was resolved when Shuho-san, our resident monk from Ottawara, casually mentioned that in his home temple his mother would sometimes make it with lemon and lime juice. Lemon & lime juice! Eureka! And so Ponzu Bean Salad was born…
Intrestingly enough ponzu is not a native Japanese word but a derivative of pons from the Dutch language; an old-fashioned word for fruit punch, with Japanese zu added at the end on meaning vinegar.
200 g (1 cup) dried black-eyed peas (or about 600 g / 3 cups cooked and drained)
1 medium red onion
6-8 medium vine tomatoes
70 g (3-4 cups) rocket (arugula)
20 g (2-3 tablespoons) fresh ginger
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (or sake; or pale sherry; plus a ½ teaspoon of sugar)
½ teaspoon lemon zest
- Soak the black-eyed peas overnight in three times their volume of fresh water. The following day, drain and rinse. Put the black-eyed peas in a pot and cover with ample water. Bring to a boil over a high flame, turn the flame low and simmer gently until tender, about 1½ hours. Periodically check the water level doesn’t get lower than the beans; add more water as needed. When the beans are tender, drain and leave them enough time to cool down before combining with the rest of the ingredients.
- Alternatively, use a pressure cooker. Cover with 3 cm (1 inch) of water, bring to pressure over a high flame. When the pressure has been reached turn the flame low and cook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, remove from the flame and let it rest for 10 minutes. Release any remaining pressure, open the lid, and check if they are tender. If so, drain. If not, close the pressure cooker again and bring the it back to pressure for one minute, then immediately release the pressure under a cold running tap. Leave enough time for them to cool down before combining with the rest of the ingredients. (For a more speedy version, use canned beans, rinsed and drained. Any kind will do if black eye peas are not available.)
- Peel and thinly slice the red onion. In a frying pan on medium flame, heat a tablespoon of oil, and then add the red onion. Sauté until golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Place the tomatoes in a heat-proof bowl, prick with sharp knife and cover with boiling water. When the peel splits, about 1-2 minutes depending on the tomatoes, scoop out and cool down in a bowl of cold water. Drain, peel and medium-dice the tomatoes. Set aside.
- Wash and roughly chop the rocket leaves.
- Peel and mince the ginger.
- Make the ponzu by combining the ginger, lemon juice, lime juice. soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, and lemon zest.
- When the beans are cool, drain well put into a serving bowl, and then gently stir in the marinade.
- Finally fold in the red onions, tomatoes and rocket.
- Season to taste, and serve.