Winter citrus is finally abundant at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and, with new varieties appearing each week, many of the city’s best and brightest chefs will be snapping it up through the winter months. On Saturdays you’ll find them congregating behind the booth at Hamada Farms, waxing poetic about how they’ll be using those Bearss limes or Oro Blanco grapefruits as they wait for farmer Clifford Hamada to fill their orders.
Michael Hung of Bushi Tei restaurant was at the market recently with his heart set on Sudachi, a small, round, green citrus fruit. The Sudachi can be quite acidic and is often used as a component in ponzu sauce. “We don’t use much vinegar at the restaurant, but we do use citrus juice quite a bit,” Michael told me, as he selected his fruit. “It just seems to add a little more levity and brightness. The Sudachi has a cool, musky flavor that gives a nice dimension to many of our dishes.”
Michael playfully refers to the menu at Bushi Tei as “Hapanese,” a mixture of Japanese and European styles and techniques inspired by farm-fresh California produce. In addition to citrus, Michael also picked up Fuyu persimmons at Hamada, small bunches of greens from County Line Harvest, and fresh Yuba at Hodo Soy. Michael told me he shops at the market several times a week to buy small quantities of fresh ingredients for use at his restaurant. “We don’t have a big walk-in, so I have to really plan and use only what I can get fresh that day.”
Other citrus varieties that caught Michael’s eye that day were Bergamot orange, Buddha’s Hand citron, and Kishu mandarins. But if he had to pick a favorite, he said he would choose the Cara Cara orange. “They are just the best,” he said rather dreamily. The Cara Cara—a pink-fleshed, low-acid navel orange variety—just started to appear last week. Farmer Clifford Hamada tells me that in the coming weeks he hopes to have a more abundant supply at his stand, so that chefs like Michael and farmers market shoppers can have their fill for the season.