Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

All about rice vinegar

So very useful

Japanese rice vinegar is a vinegar made from fermented rice or rice wine in Japan. This is mainly for making sushi rice, sunomono (vinegared side dish) and Japanese vinegar dressing salad. What is the difference between rice vinegar and sushi vinegar? Well, sushi vinegar is ready to just pour on the rice so it contains sugar and salt already in it. Whereas, rice vinegar is just a vinegar so to make sushi rice you would need to add some salt and sugar in rice vinegar and mix together. So should you just buy a sushi vinegar anyway so that you can just use it with no other hastle? That is also fine but because itfs a little convenient, price wise sushi vinegar will be a bit more than rice vinegar often. If you would like to make sushi or sunomono occasionally then to save money you could buy a rice vinegar. Also, if you have your own recipe to experiment with, just buy a rice vinegar. It really depends on what you need and what you want it for. Personally, I would just get them both and use it depending on the situation! Most of the recipes you can find on the Internet to make sushi rice, the recipe has rice vinegar and not sushi vinegar. Because itfs just so easy to make sushi vinegar. you only need salt and sugar with the rice vinegar. What kind of people would not have salt and sugar at home unless theyfve ran out of them?

 

One of the major vinegar companies Mizkanfs sushi vinegar costs US$20 a bottle on Amazon.com and their rice vinegar costs US$15 a bottle for a slightly bigger bottle. So itfs saving money if you get rice vinegar. Adding salt and sugar is so easy and you donft even have to heat it, just mix it. So buying sushi vinegar is for busy working mothers more like?

 

Japanese rice vinegar is an interesting one. The colour is usually a kind of pale yellow right through to colourless. It is roughly 5% acetic acid and itfs not strong, in fact itfs usually described as quite mild. Most of the time, this wonderful liquid is made from either rice or sake lees. There are two particular types that are referred to in Japanese and they are kasuzu and yonezu. They are mainly used in Japanese cooking for making three pretty traditional and great foods which are tsukemono which is a kind of pickles, nimono which is simmered vegetables and meats in seasonings and sunomono which is a kind of side dish salad using vinegar, as well as these, it is also often used in marinades to help kill any odours in meat and fish and to add taste.

 


Using rice vinegar

Another usage is seasoned rice vinegar, this is prepared by adding sugar, salt and sake in with the rice. This mixture can be bought at the shops in premade packets or it can be pre mixed at home. This is what is used to make sushi. Another popular usage for it is as a light salad dressing, itfs really nice and refreshing when you have a little splashed over your favourite type of lettuce!

 

In Japan there is a pretty special and interesting drink called kurozu. kuro means black and zu means vinegar so this drink is literally black vinegar. Donft be put off by the name literal translation though. The people who make this tout it for its high concentrations of amino acids that it has so it is thought of as a healthy drink. It is also been said that this drink has many anti cancer properties also.
The process of making rice vinegar is an interesting one and it is the process that makes it healthy. Rice vinegar is a fermented product. It is made from rice and rice koji and the style of making it is actually similar to making nihonshu (Japanese rice wine). This vinegar is not harsh and strong tasting like many vinegars that are made from wheat and corn. These vinegars have a sour taste whereas rice based vinegar has quite a mild taste in comparison and it is rich in umami (the fifth taste sensation) flavour. Japanese cooking just wouldnft be the same without this little wonder, just try to imagine sushi without the rice vinegar, no thanks!
You may not be familiar with what koji and umami are so here is a little background to help explain these two very important parts of Japanese cuisine.
Koji is rice that has been steamed and had a special kind of koji bacteria added to it allowing it to be cultivated. the actual scientific name for it is a bit of a mouthful but here goesc Aspergillus Oryzae is what it is. Essentially, the starches in the rice are broken into sugars by enzymes created by the koji bacteria during the process of fermentation, this in turn creates carbon dioxide and alcohol. Koji is pretty important because without it, sake could not be made and neither could rice vinegar! there are some other drinks and products made in other parts of Asia using koji but the method for making them is different and so are the products for that reason.
Umami is known by many as the fifth taste sensation. It refers to a flavour that is almost mythical. the term has only really recently come into being and it was a man by the name of kikunae Ikeda who was a japanese food chemist who created it. He suggested that when foods like cheese age or when delicious meats fry under an open flame or on a hot plate that the proteins actually change allowing for a change in taste in that product that gives an umami flavour. This is why umami refers to delicious foods such as aged cheese and fried meats but can also extend through to vinegar.
Here you go. Rice vinegar is an important Japanese ingredient like soy sauce, mirin, cooking sake, miso. They are all about fermentation with koji and umami in it.