What makes a certain food the newest star? It is hard to say but I am convinced that Yuzu is the newest star of the culinary food world. I cannot escape its presence. Not that I'm trying. It beams out at us daily from the menus of America in the same way George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston do from the pages of magazines and newspapers. It bares its midriff as often as Jennifer Lopez and with nearly the buzz. But the buzz of Yuzu is citrus not sex. None-the-less...bring it on.

The straightforward definition of Yuzu is that "It is the tangerine-size variety of citron, a species of citrus fruit with a thick, bumpy rind. Like lemon, it is valued for its rind, which has a pleasant tart and bitter flavor, as well as for its juice." Yet there must be more...

Is there something to its name that makes us so mad for it? The rhyming ability is pleasant to our ears. "You-zoo". Like "Lee-Chee", (lychee). Like "Guah-Vah", (guava). Like "Foo-Foo", (fufú). These words speak to us with Dr. Seuss-like charm and tickle our middle ear.

Is there an ancient mystery that beckons us from its Far Eastern lineage? We may have first encountered it in the hallowed corridors of a Japanese Temple. There its pedigree would be confirmed; star power assured. A geisha holding her guests in a just squeezed trance

Yet to taste yuzu's juice for the first time, untamed, would be like walking in on Brando (with no foreknowledge of his artful pretending), at the instant he ripped off his T-shirt and screamed "STELLA!" It rips into your tasting gallery with a brute resurrection of power primordial.

I've seen her in Detroit where she was on the arm of an Italian Balsamic prince. I've seen her at the new "Sirena" restaurant on South Beach, where her irresistible songs warmed the underbelly of a tuna's raw curves. I've consumed her and she enchanted me at home, though I plied her with honey and truffles and placed her underneath the zaftig opulence of a duck's breast first.

Are you star-struck like me?

Do you,

I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s my word on food.
**Works consulted: “The Japanese Kitchen”, Hiroko Shimbo, Harvard Common Press 2000
Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2001