Happy Vietnamese New Year: Buddha’s Hand tea and vinaigrette dressing

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It’s less than a week to Vietnamese New Year, Tet 2012, the year of the dragon. To get us into the celebratory mood I thought I would share some Vietnamese and New Year-inspired recipes and traditions.

First up, we’re using Buddha’s Hand citron. My mom has a citron tree in her front yard and throughout Fall and Winter it produces prodigiously. Lucky us. They’re crazy looking fruit, aren’t they? I think the biggest question is always: “What in the world do I do with it?” Good question. I wondered the same for many years.

The Buddha’s Hand citron is a really mellow lemon that is all peel and spongy pith. You can actually eat this gem raw, the pith does not have the bitterness that we generally associate with more commonly known lemons. The lemony flavor is quite soft and very aromatic. You can slice up the fingers and body of the fruit into long thin slices, add it to salads or pastries. You can use it with braised meats the same way that you would traditional lemons. (I think it would make an amazing glaze for salmon.) It can work beautifully to infuse vodka or to make limoncello. However, it’s most commonly found candied: cooked in a sugar syrup for long-term preservation amd use in sweets or even over ice cream. David Leibovitz has a great recipe for candied citron.

Today, I’m showing you a quick tea and a beautiful vinaigrette that brings a taste of Spring into the dead of Winter.

To make tea just steep a few slices or chunks of raw citron in hot water to make a gentle, mild lemon tea. Once brewed (~5 minutes) enjoy straight or add a little honey and oh, my—it’s a gentle, aromatic essence—soooo good!

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Now, for the vinaigrette we’re going to make a wonderful base vinaigrette that can sit in your fridge for months. It’s so fresh and Springy, it feels decadent.

The reason that we’re simply doing a base vinaigrette is so that you can enjoy this fantastic (and sometimes expensive) fruit for as long as possible. Once you add things like fresh garlic and herbs to the base it will go bad within a week or so. We don’t want that.

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The base ratio for any vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, plus salt and pepper to taste. For this recipe I used a really nice olive oil that we got as a gift for Christmas (Thank you, Adrienne!) and rice vinegar because of it’s natural sweetness, but you can use whatever you would like. I imagine that white wine vinegar or balsamic would be fantastic as well.

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Grate on a microplane 2 to 3 tablespoons of citron.

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Add to the base vinaigrette and shake.

Use as is or add mustard and honey, garlic and herbs, or any number of combos that float your boat.

Enjoy!

Buddha’s Hand vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

3/4 cup extra virgin oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar (or any vinegar of your choice)
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2-3T finely grated Buddha’s Hand citron

  1. Mix everything together in a jar and store in the refrigerator.
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