Ponzu, or pon-su, derives from the Japanese words for vinegar and punch. Made from a mixture of vinegar, pungent sea-based ingredients, and citrus juices, it releases the distinctive and most prized of Japanese flavors: umami. See below for ideas about how to incorporate this ingredient into a variety of dishes.
1. As a marinade
With an already complex mixture of flavors, ponzu sauce is a great, instant marinade of its own, though it has even more flavor mixed with ginger, garlic, scallions, chili, and salt. Soak meats such as chicken or flank steak in the sauce in an air-tight plastic bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. (Vegetables need only marinate for 30 minutes.) Then throw on the grill or under a broiler to cook.
2. As a glaze for meats
In addition to the intense flavor of a marinade, ponzu sauce also works well as a delicate finishing glaze for meats that are nearly cooked. Brush chicken, pork, or beef with ponzu sauce during the final minutes of cooking for a boost of flavor.
3. As a dipping sauce
The salinity of ponzu sauce makes for an excellent accompaniment to crudité, dumplings, and tempura. It can be served directly from the bottle, as in shabu-shabu (boiled meat dishes), or as a creamy dip when mixed with mayonnaise. Try it with mirin, a Japanese rice wine, with ginger, scallions, garlic, citrus, or chili paste for another take on dip.
4. As an addition to stir-fries
Like soy sauce, ponzu gains a syrupy consistency when the sugars in the sauce caramelize. Drizzle ponzu sauce over stir-fry to season and finish the dish.
5. As a dressing
The standard dressing ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid. Use ponzu as the acid with sesame oil and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in honey to thicken. This simple preparation dresses anything from fresh vegetables to soba noodles.