Monday, 19 February 2007

japanese citrus season - dekopon

After the crisp sweet pears and nashis of autumn, the Japanese winter drags on in a fruit monotony of imported bananas and gradually mealier apples. By late January the strawberries have started to appear but they're still expensive and not yet at their prime.

It's around this time of year you start to discover a wealth of citrus fruits unseen in Western supermarkets; the Hassaku, Iyokan, Dekopon, Ponkan, Amanatsu, Sudachi, Kabosu and Yuzu to name but the most common.

From far away you mistake them for slightly misshapen mandarins, oranges and lemons, the rejects sorted into the discount bin, bigger, smaller, more wrinkly and with little protrusions.

Once you realise the bounty of choice in front of you, it's overwhelming. Which are the sweet fruits perfect for peeling and eating as is? Which ones are used for seasoning, and what dishes do they complement?

Basically: iyokan, dekopon, ponkan, hassaku and amanatsu are sweet and can be eaten like an oranage or mandarin. Sudachi, kabosu and yuzu are more commonly used for seasoning other dishes, in the way we use lemons and limes.

A quick google search about Japanese citrus fruits is dissapointing, unless you are in the market for some yuzu scented handcreme, but Tokyo foodblogger Amy has written about her love for dekopon with such enthusiam that B and I went out and bought one that very night.

The dekopon is easy to spot, thanks to a protruding 'nipple' around the stem. Ours was a little smaller than a regular orange, but this one is a giant. I guess that's what we get for only paying 170yen. The wikipedia article says they usually cost upwards of 650yen per fruit, but I haven't seen any that expensive. Perhaps they're talking about gift fruit.


And the taste? It has a juicy sweetness that's very mild, similar to a mandarin, with none of the acidic twang of an orange. What I loved the most about our little dekopon was it's texture. It's seedless, with almost no pith, and the flesh of the segments reminded me of jelly. There's no juice dribbling down your chin, but the segments are plump and bouncy, unlike a lot of the dried out mandarins (mikans) I ate this year. I'm looking forward to eating many more 'pons before the season ends in late April, and trying the rest of their citrus friends too.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I'm glad you like dekopon too! 170 Yen is a great price, they still haven't gone below 250 around here. They normally go down in price as the season progresses, and they get a bit bigger and sweeter too. But somehow this year they seem a litle smaller and more expensive than usual. Wonder if the warm weather is to blame?