Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are widely used in Asian cuisine and vary from country to country and culture to culture. All vinegars used in Asian cooking are milder and sweeter than their Western counterparts, containing a much lower level of acetic acid.

Chinese rice vinegars fall into three categories: white, red and black. White rice vinegar is made from white rice, as one would suspect, is pale yellow and has one of the strongest flavors of rice vinegars. It also has the highest acetic content of all three rice vinegars.

Red rice vinegar is red, as its name implies, and is milder than the white. It is produced from red yeast rice and cultivated with a red mold that gives it a distinctive flavor.

Black rice vinegar, also known as Chinese brown rice vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar or Chekiang vinegar, has a dark color and and a characteristic smoky flavor. Chekiang vinegar is considered the gold standard among black rice vinegars. It is most popular in southern China and is used primarily for dipping and braising sauces. It is made from glutinous rice and a malt similar to that used in Balsamic vinegars. It is also an indispensible ingredient in Shark Fin soup.

Japanese rice vinegars are milder and range in color from clear to pale yellow. The seasoned variety is made by adding salt and sugar and is commonly used in sushi.

Korean rice vinegar is typically made by mixing brown or glutinous rice with a fermentation starter known as nuruk. Vietnam, as well, has its own variation of rice vinegar but is generally spicy and sour. Whether Vietnamese rice vinegar tends toward the spicy or the sour side varies depends on the region where it is produced.

Rice wine vinegar is made from wine rather than from rice. So, simply put, rice vinegar is made from fermented rice, while rice wine vinegar is made from the dregs, also called lees, of rice wine. The lees are particles and residue that settle and separate from the liquid.

Rice wine vinegars, like rice vinegar, vary in color, strength and flavor depending on the rice from which the wine was made. Japanese rice wine, for example, is made from the lees of Sake. Some cooks substiture Western vinegars for rice vinegars and rice wine vinegars, particularly since the latter tend to be a little more expensive or more difficult to find. Yet the distinctive flavor and quality of Asian cuisine greatly depends on these authentic ingredients. All are available on the internet, but can usually be located in local stores or shops. Similarly, there is frequently a temptation to substitute one kind of rice vinegar for another, such as red for black, or to substitute rice vinegar for rice wine vinegar. Again, substitution will result in a dish that does not have the true characteristics of the recipe, so substitute with care.

Reference:
1. Rice vinegar vs. rice wine vinegar – Chowhound
2. Rice Vinegar vs. Rice Wine Vinegar? – CookingLight.com Community

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