Yes, I know it looks rather like marmalade – specifically one made with bitter-tart Seville oranges – but here’s the kicker: this stuff is actually a fruit tea! It’s a mad notion, I know, but this 600-gram jam jar contains enough citron tea to stave off colds and soothe sore throats for the coming cold season.
This is yuja-cha. It is, for all intents and purposes, a type of Korean marmalade specifically created not for slathering on bread or scones but more for dissolving in hot water to make a warming, soothing, rejuvenating drink in chilly weather. It is part of a long Oriental tradition of steeping preserved fruit, flowers, and herbs in hot water to make beverages that are both refreshing and healthful.
To be quite specific about it, yuja-cha is the name given to the prepared drink. The marmalade itself is referred to as yujacheong or yuzu (citron) paste. Yujacheong is prepared by first washing bright yellow (ripe or slightly underripe) citrons in salt water, then drying them up. The dried citrons are, then, finely sliced and marinated in dark honey or a heavy sugar syrup for a few days until the paste is ready to use.
One takes a heaping tablespoon of yujacheong and dissolves it in a mug of hot water. The fragrant steam helps to clear congested sinuses, the honey calms down ragingly sore throats, and the tangy citron provides plenty of vitamin C to stave off nasty viruses.
Saveur Magazine featured yujacha in its 2014 Saveur 100 list of the best things to eat, drink, and read, citing it for its lovely citrus taste and warming qualities. Interestingly, it also works well when prepared like lemonade: a tablespoon dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water and topped up with chilled water – still or sparkling – over ice works wonders on hot days.
If you’re lucky enough to grab a jar of yujacheong (and if you live or work in the Bonifacio Global City, the many Oriental groceries keep it in stock for P 280.00 per 600-gram jar), you might also try my spin on the classic Dark and Stormy cocktail as a refreshing sipper with plenty of sassy, bittersweet, tart bite.
- 1 generous tablespoon yujacheong
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 shot dark rum
- ginger ale
Dissolve the yujacheong in hot water; allow to steep for a few minutes. Add the rum and pour over ice in a tall glass; top up with the ginger ale. Muddle with a swizzle stick; serve immediately.