Friday, May 6, 2011

About Chinese Vinegar

I few months ago I watched a CCTV4 programme on TCM and food issue. On this particular Sunday morning, while I was doing some exercice at the gym and watching TV at the same time, I listened attentively to the story of a man, born in 1919, who came to eat a tablespoon of vinegar soaked black beans each day for 16 years to keep his arteriosclerosis at bay. I found his story quite interesting and, although I do not suffer from arteriosclerosis, I decided to try to make this magic potion. Black beans are good for health and it cannot hurt to eat a small amount from time to time as a condiment.

So on March 4 I went to Yue Wah Chinese Products in Jordan (in Kowloon) and bought 500g of black beans - 黑豆 and 2 bottles of mature vinegar - 陈醋 to make my own vinegar soaked black beans. Here are the old man's instructions: 
  1. Rinse the beans and let them dry in the sun. 
  2. Fill in glass jar(s) with the beans and covered them with mature vinegar. Leave room on top of the jars for the beans to swell. 
  3. Let stand for 2 months. From time to time open the jars and check if vinegar needs to be added as the beans are absorbing the vinegar. 
Today, 2 months later, I opened the jars and tasted the beans. They are ready to eat! They are a bit crunchy and the sharpness and smoky flavor really rev up my appetite!

About rice vinegar:

Rice vinegar is considered to help digestion. In Japan it is considered a health tonic that has the ability to increase one's energy levels. It is also said to have anti-tumor properties.

They are many types of black rice vinegar:
  • Chinkiang vinegar: from Zhenjiang 镇江 zhen4jiang1 (also named京江jing1jiang1) of the Jiangsu province.  Deep flavour; gold plum colour; considered the best. It is made with fermented glutinous rice (millet or sorghum).  In Chinese cuisine it is often added in soups and braised dishes. It also makes an excellent dipping sauce (sometimes mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil) for fried dumplings. I read that it could also be used an alternative to balsamic vinegar. I have yet to try this.
  • (Shanxi) mature vinegar:  Smoky distinctive flavor. Made with sorghum 高粱, barley 大麦 and peas 豌豆; less sweet than purely fermented rice.  This is the one used by the old man in the TV programme.

Besides black, red and white rice vinegars are also used in Chinese cuisine:
  • Red rice vinegar: usually used as a dipping sauce for dumplings, in noodle, soup and seafood dishes (such as shark fin soup).
  • White rice vinegar: best for sweet and sour dishes and for pickling vegetables.

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