UK: Pomelo is the hot new citrus in town

by Xanthe Clay, The Telegraph


Citrus is the hero fruit of the winter months. February and March have precious little to offer that is home grown, bar rhubarb and the last of the stored apples. But while they might not be local, I refuse to feel guilty about loading my (reusable, naturally) shopping bag with crimson-freckled blood oranges, knobbly Amalfi lemons and fragrant, tight skinned limes. European citrus is at its best now, and as for the further flung varieties – now is when we need them most.


One less familiar variety that has been cropping up on restaurant menus is the pomelo. You’ll have to go further than the supermarket to find it – none of the big four is stocking pomelo at the moment – but you should be able to find them in greengrocers and oriental shops, imported from China. You might mistake them for huge, yellow grapefruit, and they are often encased in red mesh bags.


Although it’s new to many of us, in fact pomelo has a venerable history. This yellow, bowling ball of a fruit, native to south-east Asia, is one the fathers of grapefruit, a hybrid with orange, that appeared after the pomelo was brought to the Caribbean. Most imports are from China, where they value the pale yellow flesh, but more surprisingly also the thick pith, which is said to aid the digestion of fat so is often used in braises with rich meat.


Peeling a pomelo is a business, as the skin can be as much as an inch thick. The best approach is to cut a slice off the top of the fruit, then score the skin deeply to divide it into four segments. Pull the skin back like the petals of a flower and tear out the ball of pomelo. Finally, peel off the tough membrane surrounding each segment.


The flesh within is drier than an orange or grapefruit, as the “vesicles” (the tiny teardrop shape capsules of juice) are less fragile, meaning when you eat the fruit they burst nicely in your mouth. The flavour is mild, less sharp and sweet than other citrus, and with a hint of grapefruit bitterness. Now, much as I love a salad of orange and chicory, say, this mellowness makes pomelo a far more versatile fruit for savoury dishes.


The menu at Ottolenghi’s new Spitalfields restaurant will feature pan-fried prawns with pomelo, pickled endive and garlic crisps with toasted rice and tamarind dressing. Yotam Ottolenghi is a fan of the fruit, as he tells me: “What I love about them is that, unlike other citrus, they don’t go flabby in salads but retain all their juiciness. This firmness is brilliant in salsas, particularly for fish. I love making sugar syrup and marinating pomelo pieces in it with sweet spices such as star anise, cardamom or cinnamon.”


At London’s Pollen St Social restaurant, Jason Atherton pairs pomelo with a scallop carpaccio, where chunks give lightness to the dish. He explains that any other citrus fruit would overwhelm the scallop, but pomelo “has such a deep flavour, not too citrus, so you can give [people] a good piece without getting the sourness”.


But it is in south-east Asian dishes that you’ll most often find pomelo. In London’s coolest new bar restaurant, Smoking Goat, diners sit on high stools to eat a searingly hot and addictively good pomelo salad. It’s healthy, delicious and the perfect antidote to cold wet weather. Bring it on.


Source: The Telegraph

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