Recently, our Japanese reporter Aya Ayabe went out to an izakaya [Japanese pub] and finished her revelries with an order of sudachi rice, sudachi being a type of sour Japanese citrus fruit. The slightly bitter flavor really hit the spot in the midst of the nighttime summer heat, and it got her thinking: “What would happen if I cooked rice with some ponzu sauce [a citrus-based sauce which mixes sudachi with other citrus fruits and soy sauce]?” Still curious, the next day she tried making a batch for herself, and the results were apparently quite epic: “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me all summer! I’ll never forget this day as long as I live.”

In any case, Ayabe would like to share her extremely simple recipe for creating ponzu rice with you–a delightfully refreshing treat for the dog days of summer which can be enjoyed either hot or cold. 

【The super easy recipe to make ponzu rice

The recipe is very simple, if it can be called a recipe at all–Simply substitute half of the normal amount of water you use to cook your rice with ponzu sauce! Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

Ponzu sauce can generally be found at Asian grocery stores outside of Japan. This writer has personally never had a problem finding it at even Chinese or Korean markets in the United States.


Ayabe also recommends cooking the rice a bit on the firmer side. The finished rice might look unimpressive at first, but just wait until the refreshing, citrusy aroma hits your nose.


You can either eat the rice as is, or as Ayabe recommends, by topping it with your choice of crushed shiso leaves, crushed garlic, sesame seeds, or black pepper–she even suggests pouring some chilled mugicha [barley tea] over it. Rice mixed with sesame seeds and shiso makes particularly good onigiri as well.

▼ One basic serving suggestion, with pickled vegetables on the side


【It gets even tastier when you chill it!】

Ponzu rice has unlimited potential, and you should have fun experimenting with different serving styles. Here’s one more way to further draw out the ponzu’s unique flavor.

After making her original batch, Ayabe saved the remaining rice in some plastic wrap to have on the following day. However, she became hungry for a late-night snack and ended up making some impromptu onigiri [rice balls] out of the rice straight out of the fridge…and discovered that it was even more delicious cold.

▼ Another serving option as chilled onigiri


You probably know from firsthand experience that when left in the fridge, the starch in cooked rice undergoes a reaction which causes it to harden after enough time, at which point it becomes too crumbly to shape into decent onigiri. But the good news is that this process occurs very slowly, and according to Ayabe, the chilled rice was a perfect summer treat even after 10+ hours of being chilled in the fridge.

Enjoy your own batches of ponzu rice, and let us know of any other summery variations you come up with!

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