Chinese black vinegar—known usually in its most popular form, Chinkiang or Zhenjiang vinegar—is deeply colored and tastes fruity (though it’s less sweet than balsamic), with a touch of umami richness. It’s made by adding acetic acid and bacteria to glutinous rice, usually, but also to wheat, millet, or sorghum. Black vinegar is incredibly versatile (not to mention affordable). Most of us get to know it as an accompaniment for xiao long bao. I first tasted black vinegar at a dumpling house, paired with soy sauce and caramelized onions cooked with chile peppers. I’ve been addicted ever since, and I’m not alone. Here are seven ways black-vinegar fans feed their own addictions.
1. Use it in these interesting, sweet-sour Ribs with Black Vinegar Sauce (originally published in Gourmet magazine).
2. Toss 1 pound of fresh Chinese egg noodles with this sesame-black vinegar dressing: 1/4 cup sesame oil | 1/4 cup black soy sauce | 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar | 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar | 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt | 1 tablespoon hot chile oil, or to taste. • Mix all ingredients well, making sure the sugar and salt are dissolved. Toss with the cooked, well-drained noodles until evenly coated. Adjust the seasonings as needed to achieve a hot, tangy, salty, sweet balance. Thinly slice 8 scallions and toss into the noodles. For best flavor, allow to sit several hours before serving.
3. Add black vinegar to your favorite Filipino chicken (or turkey) adobo.
4. Use black vinegar instead of lemon to punch up the flavor of scallops in brown butter. Sear the scallops in butter, then remove to a plate. Add sliced almonds and a thin-sliced garlic clove to the pan, with 1 tablespoon of butter. Let the butter brown, and finish with 1 tablespoon black vinegar and 2 tablespoons white wine; toss scallops in the sauce and serve.
5. Black vinegar makes a great marinade for grilled pork chops. Combine a few tablespoons with chopped rosemary and Dijon mustard; marinate the chops for 1 hour or longer.
6. Use black vinegar to riff on traditional chicken salad. Create a creamy dressing with black vinegar, mayo, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and a pinch of sugar. Toss with lettuce, bok choy, cooked chicken, and lots of sliced scallions, and finish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
7. Splash black vinegar into the pan with roasted Brussels sprouts—it gives a smoky yet fruity finish.