The other day Mr. Masakatsu Nakaura from Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, came to see me at my NY office, and presented me Yubeshi, which was placed in an elegant black box. His family company, Nakauraya, has been producing Yubeshi since 1910, and Mr. Nakaura is the fourth generation of the company. At a glance Yubeshi looks like a precious lacquered art object, even though it is a food product. Yubeshi is a mochi-filled yuzu citrus fruit and comes from NotoPeninsula, IshikawaPrefecture. Mr. Nakaura has a big dream – find Yubeshi customers in USA.
Yubeshi is about 2-inch in diameter, and is made with a lengthy artisanal production process. Mr. Nakaura’s company makes one of the best Yubeshi in the region. The first challenge and the most difficult part of the production is to remove completely the inside pulp, including the white skin without damaging the skin. The resulting fruit has amazingly thin skin (just orange part), so that the light penetrates through it. Yet, the fruit is holding its perfect original round shape. This delicate yuzu cup is filled with mochi, flavored with sugar, shoyu, rice syrup and yuzu rind; Then steamed. After steaming it is dried in cold winter air. The steaming and drying process is repeated three to five times in order for the skin to acquire a deep brown, shiny lacquer-ware like appearance, and for the inside mochi to develop proper texture with deep yuzu flavor. The whole production takes about half a year.
Yubeshi, as a history, started as a humble, preserved snack which was carried by the warriors to the battle field back in the 15th century. During the peace time of Edo Period (1600-1868) the quality of artisan food productions improved greatly. Yubeshi transformed from humble snack to an elaborate sweet, which was used as a special gift to higher ranking worriers and wealthy merchants.
Today Yubeshi is a gourmet food product in Japan. It is used as an accompaniment to soup dish, steamed dish and simmered dish. Simply sliced Yubeshi accompanies a glass of sake or whisky at high end Japanese restaurant. Today it is served with a glass of wine, too.
Freshly made Yubeshi is quite tender, Mr. Nakaura says. Yubeshi which I have acquired is, luckily or unluckily, 3 years aged. So, the texture is firm and cutting into it requires a well-sharpened knife. The taste of small slice of Yubeshi is very powerful. Strong yuzu flavor lingers in the mouth even after 20 minutes of consuming it. The texture of my Yubeshi is firm with a slight chewiness. Steaming or warming aged Yubeshi in hot liquid softens the texture and, at the same time, bring out more yuzu flavor and chewy texture.
After I come back from Bogota’s dinner events, I will do some experiments with my 3 year aged Yubeshi. Stay tuned.