I was going to do a post on Chinese vinegars when I ran across this Youtube video. Cooking teacher Eileen Lo takes us on a tour of an oddly non-busy grocery in New York’s Chinatown and tells not only what ingredients are used for, but which brands to buy. The tour is courtesy of finecooking.com, which provides the recipes mentioned in the video here.
And about those Chinese vinegars. Sifu Lo explains that Black Vinegar, which appears in Orchid’s Noodles and as a dipping sauce for dumplings, is made with rice vinegar colored and flavored with caramel. I’ve used it in place of much more expensive balsamic with excellent results. Look for Koon Chung brand in your Asian market or order it from Amazon.
Chinese Red Vinegar, with shaved fresh ginger, also makes an excellent dumpling dipping sauce. But apparently it’s just rice vinegar with red food coloring, so you might be better off with an inexpensive red wine vinegar like Cora brand and you might even try that with ginger for Chinese dipping. (It was in the Amazon reviews of Koon Chung Red Vinegar that I found a tip from EJ that pointed me to the Eileen Lo video.)
And on the subject of substitutions, what if you don’t have access to basic white Chinese rice vinegar? No problem, says Eileen Lo. Just use Heinz distilled (white) vinegar instead.