Thursday, May 14, 2009

Japanese "Golden Oranges"

Fruit in Tokyo is fairly expensive save for a few items like bananas. Even they are only "cheap" by comparison to things like apples which range from about a dollar to up to $3.00 each. Therefore, I am not an adventurous purchaser of fruit. I tend to buy only what I'm sure I like because the risk of investing in bad fruit is simply not worth it. I also grew up in a household where one did not waste the smallest amount of food so the idea of tossing out perfectly good food, which I merely find unpalatable, rubs me the wrong way.

For this reason, Japanese fresh fruit, which is a favored snack of mine, doesn't show up very often for review. Mainly, I'm reviewing it only when it is given to me by Japanese friends, acquaintances or students. Also, a lot of the sorts of things that are not common abroad aren't available in shops anyway. Most of them are regional and you only get them when a distant friend of a friend in Tokyo tries to unload a large portion of their overflowing harvest.

One of my students was given a large portion of Japanese golden oranges by a coworker and she fobbed some off on me. She didn't tell me the Japanese name and my research didn't turn it up. Searches turned up the Japanese equivalent of loquats, kumquats, and fortunella, but none of those was correct. Trying to find the Japanese name of something when you only have a vague description in English, particularly when the fruit is uncommon or unavailable in other countries is a tough feat to pull off.

Each of these oranges is quite small, about the size of a tangerine (or mikan in Japan). The color of the skin is orange-yellow rather than the sunny yellow of a lemon. They smell incredible, like a citrus blend. I didn't use the peel for anything, but I imagine the potential is there for tea, potpourri or even baking using the rind.

The fruit inside is lighter than an orange and it separates easily from the relatively thick skin. The pith sticks like a second flesh where it sticks rather than as stringy bits like in a conventional orange. The taste is like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit without any of the grapefruit bitterness. It was really quite refreshing and tasty. It's not too sweet, but not sour or bitter.

Though I love citrus flavors in cooking or juice, I don't tend to eat the fruit itself very often because I don't like the texture or the acid. These would win out easily over a navel orange (that is, a "regular" orange), but I'd still be more likely to buy Japanese tangerines (mikan) rather than these golden oranges. If they were cheap or if I got them as a gift again, I'd certainly welcome having them again and would definitely recommend sampling them.


Allie, Peeps2 said...

Hello! I've been reading for a little while now. I wanted to thank you for your blog, I've definitely had some great success with the "happy sumo" items that I've tried (most recently, the Habanero chips, which were very difficult to find!).

My Japanese isn't that great, so I was wondering if you had seen and/or know what the following is. For the past couple of months at the grocery store, I've seen wrinkly oranges with, like, a belly button. An outie belly button. I forget what they were called...ponkan or something?

I'll try to get you a photo or something the next time I go to the store. Until then...thanks! :)

smoovegeek said...

They sound kind of like yuzu.

Orchid64 said...

Allie, Peeps2: Hi there, and thanks very much for commenting. I'm very pleased to hear that you've found my reviews helpful!

Regarding the fruit that you mentioned, it sounds like Dekopon (or could be ponkan).

Dekopon is on Wikipedia here (with a picture) so you can check out if that is what it is:

smoovegeek: Hello, and many thanks for taking the time to comment and to read!

They do sound a little like yuzu, but they're not nearly as sour. These are actually sweet enough to eat as is, whereas yuzu is too tart/sour to be eaten as is (which is why it's used like we use lemons).

The person who gave me these told me that they aren't generally available (I've never seen them in Tokyo shops), so they're quite uncommon. I researched a lot of Japanese citrus fruit and still haven't found this variety.

Allie, Peeps2 said...

Thanks Orchid! Yes, that's it! I checked it yesterday at the store. Guess I'll have to pick some up now...although I should eat those golden kiwis I bought first. :)

Anonymous said...

They look like lemons. Hope I get to try them out at least once in my lifetime.