Japan’s favourite lemon Yuzu makes a splash in Indian food industry

Yuzu is a lemon from Japan that is getting popular in the food and beverage industry for its flavour, taste and fragrance

Updated - May 17, 2024 04:48 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2024 03:00 pm IST

Fresh yuzu orange tree

Fresh yuzu orange tree | Photo Credit: MAROKE

If you are a K-drama fan, you are probably already aware of Yuzu salad, yuzu coffee and yuzu juice. If you are not, it won’t be long before you see it at a cafe near you.

Yuzu is a Japanese lemon with a bumpy skin. Yellow when ripe, this lemon is known for its aroma, which combined the the tartness of a grapefruit and the sweetness of mandarin orange, with faint floral and citrus notes. Flavour notes of the Yuzu is a cross between orange and sweetline with a sharp tartness of grapefruit.

The complex flavours and citrusy, spicy nose notes make it a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Apart from the juice of the Yuzu, the highly aromatic peel is commonly used in desserts and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Maybe that is why Bira introduced Yuzu sour beer. Bira 91 collaborated with Far Yeast Brewing Co., one of Japan’s brewing companies, to launch its first Gose-style beer Yuzu Gose Sour. The ‘Yuzu Gose Sour’ is brewed from a combination of Himalayan pink salt and the peel of Yuzu.

Saikripa Sen Choksi, Culinary Director and Co-Founder Escobar, Mumbai vouches for Yuzu with Tequila. Saikripa said, “Yuzu when paired with white spirits like tequila gives out a vibrant aroma and citrusy zing, add depth and balance. Yuzu seems to be more than just a passing food fad, particularly in the world of mixology. Its application in cocktails, like our in-house ‘Esco Surge,’ which is a combination of zesty tequila, tangy Kaffir lime, and exotic yuzu puree, demonstrates its growing popularity and versatility. Given its successful pairing with a range of flavours, especially tropical ones, yuzu’s use in cocktails is likely to continue increasing.”

Bira’s Yuzu beer

Bira’s Yuzu beer

Star ingredient

Across Southeast Asia, Yuzu has become a star ingredient in Asia’s Top 50 Bars, says Ashish Nayak Mumbai-based consultant for a beer brewing company. He adds, “With Japanese alcohol becoming a crowd-favourite, cocktails featuring Japanese ingredients like the Yuzu Whiskey Sour, a Japanese take on the Ramos Gin Fizz., are being increasingly featured.

That Yuzu is the latest buzz in cafes and patisseries is evident from its presence in macarons, coffee, tea, lemonades, jams and even sauces.  According to Tastewise, a GenAI-powered consumer data platform for food and beverage brands, ‘social conversations about Yuzu have increased by 10.3 % over the past year and 2.4% of restaurants offer Yuzu on their menus. It adds that cake ranks number 1 among the most popular prepared food pairings for Yuzu.

Indian experiences

The Indian F&B scene is not shying away from incorporating yuzu into menus, but is challenged by the difficulty in getting fresh Yuzu in India.

Mumbai-based Chef Seefah Ketchaiyo, co-owner of Seefah Hillroad says, “Yuzu is not easily available in India. What we get here (India) is Yuzu juice and Yuzu paste (Yuzu kosho) which we use in our Japanese dishes. Yuzu juice is used for making Ponzu sauce to season our carpaccio and dip with gyoza or maybe also dressing for salad. With Yuzu kosho we also make several dressings like Yuzu mayo. In drinks, we infuse vodka with Yuzu kosho for a citrus peppery taste.” 

Yuzu Kosho is a hot and citrusy fermented Japanese pasted used as a condiment. It is made with fresh yuzu citrus zest, green chilli peppers or thai bird chilli and salt. 

Yuzu boba tea at Burma Burma

Yuzu boba tea at Burma Burma | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chef Hanoze Shroff of Juju in Pune rustles similar ideas about Yuzu in his kitchen. Hanoze said, “At Juju Cantina, we try and use as little imported produce as possible, but I am open to making an exception with Yuzu. We order Yuzu lemons in bulk to make Yuzu kosho, a traditional Japanese condiment made from yuzu citrus zest, chili peppers, and salt. This flavorful paste is known for its vibrant green colour and intense citrusy-spicy taste. Yuzu kosho is typically used as a seasoning to add zest and heat to various dishes, including soups, carpaccio etc. Its complexity makes it stand out in our red snapper crudo with tiger’s milk (marinade in which the fish is cooked). It is one of the versatile ingredients adding both citrus and spice to dishes.”

Yuzu cooler at True Black

Yuzu cooler at True Black | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How did the Yuzu craze travel to India? Rohit Rao, owner of True Black Coffee shop in Hyderabad shares his story, “I first had a Yuzu Americano in Thailand in 2023; I had picked the drink out of curiosity but was completely floored by its aroma and flavour in coffee. 

He opines: “The F&B industry is fast changing. At global food events, a lot of knowledge-sharing happens. Add social media, globe trotters, and food discussions, this is how it all started to get popular. For me, it was the trip to Bangkok and that coffee.”  

Has he experimented with Yuzu at True Black? “While I was in Bangkok a friend of mine from Japan got me around 20 Yuzus. I experimented with them, and thought of various coffees (cold brews) that can be done with it. However, the fresh flavours of the lemon were so pronounced that I also instantly thought of a cooler, like a lemonade that would make the flavour of Yuzu shine. Yuzu is fragrant, the tartness is high so I combined it with craft soda water (that allows the champagne bubble look). Now that is a bestseller. I use Yuzu concentrate and preserved Yuzu zest because getting fresh Yuzu is not easy in Hyderabad. “


0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.