An useful cooking idea came from an unexpected place. A cartoon character, Muriel, a kind old woman who lives with her grumpy husband and a smart dog she adopted in the middle of nowhere, where strange things happen. Perhaps, some of you might have seen an episode or two of “Courage the Cowardly Dog.” Muriel uses vinegar in most of her cooking, even when she’s cooking the dog food. The show is bizarre to say the least, but satirizes the world we live in with a wacky imagination.

What a good idea! I started using vinegar regularly in my cooking, mainly to reduce salt intake. At the same time, my mother turned me on to this book, simply titled “Vinegar,” by Vicki Lansky. It’s packed with many practical ways to use vinegar around the house.

Naturally, I also started using fresh squeezed lemon juice in cooking, and started making homemade ponzu.

Ponzu is a popular sauce in Japan. It’s made of Japanese citrus, such as yuzu, and soy sauce, and a combination of soup stocks that are made from konbu, shiitake and bonito.

Its taste is so well-rounded; saltiness, sourness, umami, and a touch of sweetness, and the nice bouquet of citrus scent makes everything tasty, even steamed broccoli. (^_-)

Without further ado, I’d like to share my ponzu recipe with you.

  • 1/2 lemon – squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake, 8~9% alcohol*)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kelp powder (see the photos below for details)

I just mix the above ingredients well. That’s it. Anyone can make it.

* The mixed sauce comes out to be roughly 1% alcohol. You could substitute it with 1 teaspoon of agave (I haven’t tried this yet!).

making homemade ponzu

Making homemade ponzu with lemon


straining lemon juice

Straining the lemon juice is optional, but it’s the quickest way to get rid of tiny seeds.


soy sauce & mirin

Measuring soy sauce and mirin for the recipe! (I usually don’t measure things when cooking) I’m using a demitasse spoon (1/2 size of teaspoon) for kelp powder here.


homemade & store-bought ponzu

Small empty 2oz maple syrup bottle worked out perfect for this batch. Store-bought ponzu with Japanese citruses (sudachi, yukou, & yuzu) &  in the middle.


homemade ponzu with lemon

Storing options… for homemade ponzu and 1/2 unused lemon


konbu dashi

This is pure konbu dashi (soup stock) in powder form, without MSG. 1~2 teaspoon(s) of this would add umami to 4 servings of miso soup. You can find this at most Asian grocers in the U.S.

It should keep in the fridge for two weeks. I drizzle it over plain soft tofu topped with julienne sweet vinegar pickled ginger, or sliced avocado, or boiled/steamed vegetables. Or use it as a dipping sauce. I also use it to flavor soups, as well as stir fries.

After squeezing the lemon, I julienne and save the zests in the freezer. (I only use organic lemons for this purpose.) Lemon zests have wonderful lemon aroma, which adds depth to soups and stir-fries. I’m not much of a baker, but it’s a great way to have lemon zests always at hand.

peeling zests off lemon

I use a vegetable peeler to shave the lemon zests.


julienne lemon zests

Small julienne lemon zests


saving julienne lemon zests

Saving julienne lemon zests in a small glass container with a lid.


frozen julienne lemon zests

Frozen julienne lemon zests

One more thing we’ve been doing is making ice cubes of lemon juice (diluted with a little purified water) regularly to use in our drinking water at meal times. It makes an instant unsweetened lemonade. Since we don’t drink chilled water during winter**, a frozen lemon cube makes the room temperature water taste a little better.

All this lemon talk, my nose is getting sweaty! Is it just me?… my nose sweats when eating a slice of lemon. Some of them are remarkably sweet!

** According to the Eastern medicine, drinking icy beverages, especially in winter, is not recommended, because it will chill your lungs and esophagus which are located right next to your stomach, then weaken their function, making you more vulnerable to colds, etc.

Happy cooking with lemons!

Update 1/1/2015: Lately, I’ve been just using lemon juice, mirin, & soy sauce to make the lemon ponzu without adding kelp powder. It still tastes great.

Also, I just noticed that Shimaya’s (supposedly pure) kelp powder contains lactose. Please see my recent tweetfor details. ^_−☆

Happy cooking!

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