Rice vinegar is a vinegar made from fermented rice or rice wine in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Given the importance of rice in Chinese food and culture, it’s not surprising that the Chinese have been using rice to make vinegar for at least 3,000 years.
Chinese rice vinegars are stronger than their Japanese counterparts, and vary in colour ranging from clear to various shades of red and brown. Chinese vinegars are very mild and sweet when compared to distilled and more acidic Western vinegars which, for that reason, are not appropriate substitutes for rice vinegars.
Rice vinegar and its extracts provide numerous nutrition and dietary benefits. A recent research into the effectiveness of this vinegar as a health supplement has revealed potential uses in blood sugar control, liver health, and colon health. Additionally, some weight loss benefits are believed to result from the use of this condiment. Procuring true rice vinegar can be slightly complicated. Make sure that the rice vinegar you purchase does not contain additives such as corn syrup, sugar, artificial colours, or preservatives.
Black rice vinegar is very popular in southern China and is made with glutinous or sweet rice. Dark in colour, it has a deep, almost smoky flavour. This kind of vinegar works well in braised dishes and also as a dipping sauce.
This type of vinegar is also dark in colour, but lighter than black rice vinegar. Red rice vinegar is an intriguing combination of tart and sweet and can be used as a substitute for black vinegar by adding a bit of sugar. It makes for a very good dipping sauce, and can also be used in noodles, soups and seafood dishes.
This vinegar is a colourless liquid, higher in vinegar content and similar in flavour to regular vinegar. It also packs a hint of sweetness that comes from the glutinous rice. The higher vinegar content of white rice vinegar makes it the best choice for sweet and sour dishes, and for pickling vegetables. It generally works well in stir-fries.
Enjoyed by the Chinese for more than 4,000 years, rice wine is made through a fermentation process involving yeast that transforms the sugars from glutinous rice into alcohol. When making rice vinegar, the fermentation process goes one step further, adding bacteria to turn the alcohol into an acid. It’s easy enough to confuse the two since they often sit side by side at the grocery store and because of the fact that rice vinegar is also called “rice wine vinegar”.
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