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Chinese rice vinegars are stronger than Japanese ones, and range in colour from clear to various shades of red and brown. Chinese and especially Japanese vinegars are very mild and sweet compared to distilled and more acidic Western vinegars which, for that reason, are not appropriate substitutes for rice vinegars. Chinese rice vinegars are made from huangjiu, a type of rice wine.
Black rice vinegar is very popular in southern China. Chinkiang Vinegar, which originated in the city of Zhenjiang in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, is considered the best of the black rice vinegars. Normally black rice vinegar is made with black glutinous rice (also called "sweet rice"), although millet or sorghum may be used instead. It is dark in colour, and has a deep, almost smoky flavour. In addition to Zhenjiang, it is also produced in Hong Kong.
Red rice vinegar is darker than white rice vinegar, and more pale than black rice vinegar, with a distinctive red colour from Red yeast rice (红曲米), which is cultivated with the mold Monascus purpureus. This vinegar has a distinctive flavour of its own due to the red mold.
In Chinese cookbooks, ½ tablespoon of Western distilled white vinegar is stated to be equivalent in strength to 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar, and recipes which call for 4 teaspoons of red rice vinegar could be substituted with only 3 teaspoons of white vinegar.
Japanese rice vinegar (米酢 komezu, "rice vinegar" or simply 酢 su, "vinegar") is very mild and mellow (approximately 5% acetic acid, much less than western vinegars) and ranges in colour from colourless to pale yellow. It is made from either rice or sake lees. These komezu are more specifically called yonezu (米酢 よねず) and kasuzu (粕酢 かすず), respectively. These vinegars are used in making sunomono (酢の物, "vinegar dishes"), tsukemono (漬物, "pickles"), nimono (煮物, "simmered dishes"), as well as in marinades to mitigate the stronger odours of certain fishes and meats.
Seasoned rice vinegar (合わせ酢 awasezu) is made by adding sake, salt and sugar. Additionally, mirin is also sometimes used (but only rarely). Although it can be made at home, prepared awasezu can also be readily bought at supermarkets. Seasoned rice vinegar is added to cooked rice (ご飯 gohan) to be used in making sushi. It is also used in salad dressing varieties popular in the west, such as ginger or sesame dressing.
A somewhat lighter form of black vinegar called kurozu (黒酢), made from rice, is produced in Japan. It is considered as a healthy drink; its manufacturers claim that it contains high concentrations of amino acids. Recent scientific research on kuruzu has revealed its anti-cancer properties in vivo on rats and in vitro on human cancer cells.
Ssal sikcho (hangul: 쌀식초, hanja: 쌀食醋) or micho (hangul: 미초, hanja: 米醋) refer to rice vinegar in Korean. Rice vinegar has been favored by Koreans for its good flavor and nutritious element. It is made with rice, chapssal (hangul: 찹쌀, glutinous rice), or hyeonmi (hangul: 현미, hanja: 玄米, brown rice) and mixed with nuruk (hangul: 누룩) which is a Korean fermentation starter.
Rice vinegar is called dấm gạo or giấm gạo in Vietnam. A variation of rice vinegar is spicy sour giấm bỗng made from nếp cái hoa vàng rice (the most notable origin of this kind of vinegar is Vân village, Vân Hà commune, Việt Yên district, Bắc Giang province) and is an ingredient of vịt om giấm bổng, bún riêu, bún ốc. Another rice vinegar is light sour hèm, used in ốc bươu hấp hèm, gà hấp hèm which is a speciality of Hóc Môn district, Ho Chi Minh city. There is also a kind of rice vinegar, namely mẻ which is strong sour, used in trâu luộc mẻ- a speciality of Cần Thơ city.
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