Monday, December 27, 2010

Buddha Hand Citron

Maybe you've come across this weird-looking fruit in a gourmet grocery and wondered what planet it came from. I first saw it among other exotic fruits in an open-air market in Malaysia, and--as is often the case with new discoveries--I soon began to see it in a few American markets.  I found the largest ever last week at Whole Foods in Colorado Springs. The picture on the right shows the stem end, and the best view of the fruit's eerie-looking "fingers." Below is the "underside," which is usually turned up for display, probably because this gives it a less creepy, more floral look.

The fruit has a very fragrant citrus aroma, but unlike all the other citrus fruits you may have had,  the Buddha hand citron is all skin and no juice. The good news is that the white pith that makes up most of the fruit isn't bitter the way other citrus pith is, so you can eat the entire thing--either raw, sliced thinly in a salad, added to a cooked dish for added flavor notes, or candied. I've also used the zest alone, where the flavor is concentrated most.

For Christmas this year, I made some Buddha hand vodka that was a huge hit (second only to the "habanero vodka" I posted earlier). Use the same basic method, with chopped citron instead of the chilies. This one is more of a sipping vodka, since you don't really need to shoot it for full effect.
It's a gorgeously hypnotic thing to look at, so you'll probably want to adorn your kitchen counter with it for a while. It really is something special, but a word of caution: be sure to use it before it begins to get moldy on you! This happens from the inside out, so at the very first sign of discoloration on the surface, you have at most a day or two left, and then it will be gone.

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