Black Vinegar Dishes Offer a Refreshing Alternative during the Hot Season

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Marinated chicken breast with black vinegar

When the weather is hot and humid and one’s appetite is low, it is natural to have a craving for dishes with a touch of sourness.

With that in mind, I recently reviewed the vinegars in my kitchen. I found rice vinegar, black vinegar, apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and more. I usually use rice vinegar for Japanese food, and apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar for dressings. However, I wasn’t sure if I’d been using them correctly.

Vinegar is a condiment made by fermenting alcohol with bacteria that produce acetic acid. It can be made from anything containing sugar, such as grains and fruits, each of which give a distinctive flavor. Among the many varieties are rare ones such as the persimmon and pomegranate vinegars I found at a supermarket near my house. My family does not like food that is too sour, so my preference was something that is not too acidic. I was curious about which vinegars were easier to use.

Chef and fermentation meister Misa Enomoto has been teaching me about dishes that incorporate fermented foods. This time, she shared some recipes that make use of black vinegar.

“Black vinegar is not too acidic and has a rich flavor, so it gives a mellow finish,” Enomoto said. She uses Kagoshima Prefecture’s specialty kurozu black vinegar, which is made the traditional way by fermenting and aging in jars stored outdoors.

I had always assumed that black vinegar was used for Chinese cuisine because I vividly remember it on the tables at Chinese restaurants.

Enomoto made me a dish of marinated chicken breast with black vinegar, “Try this first,” she said. When I ate the dish, I found that it was mild and easy to eat, with no sourness.

“During the season when we eat more and more somen noodles, if you eat this chicken alongside the somen, you can balance your nutritional intake,” Enomoto said.

I decided to cook the chicken for my 12-year-old son, who would not eat dishes that I marinated with rice vinegar, saying they were too sour. He seemed to like it, and said it could help him get stronger. He is very keen on protein-rich chicken breast meat, as his school club seems to be encouraging students to build up their muscles.

Tomato and okra hot and sour soup using black vinegar is refreshing and recommended even when you have a poor appetite. I felt like the sweetness of the tomatoes and okra as a thickener, combined with the mild acidity of the vinegar, soaked into my body. I hope you will try making this dish to nourish your body on a hot day.

Hot and sour soup

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tomato and okra hot and sour soup

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 1 tomato
  • 4 okras
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp black vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • suitable quantity of pepper and
  • Chinese red chili oil
  • 300cc water

  • Directions:

    1. Cut tomatoes into 1 centimeter cubes and okra into small pieces.

    2. Put 300 cc of water in a pot over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, add tomatoes, okra, black vinegar, soy sauce, sake and chicken stock powder.

    3. Once thickened, gradually add beaten eggs to the pot. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with a little pepper and Chinese red chili oil.

    Marinated chicken breast

    Ingredients (Serves 2-3):

    • 6 chicken breasts (300 grams)
    • 1/2 purple onion (or onion if not
    • available)
    • 1/3 carrot
    • 1/2 stalk of celery
    • 150 cc soup stock
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 3 tbsp black vinegar
    • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice
    • wine)
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 3 tbsp salad oil
    • 1/2 red pepper (round slice)

    • Directions:

      1. Thinly slice the onion, carrot and celery. Remove tendons from the chicken breast and cut it into long, thin diagonal pieces. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and dust lightly with flour.

      2. Mix soup stock, black vinegar, mirin, soy sauce and red pepper in a storage container.

      3. Heat salad oil in a frying pan, add chicken pieces and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 2 minutes. While still hot, put the chicken into the container with condiments.

      4. Place onion, carrot and celery on top of the cooked chicken and press down with plastic wrap. Let sit for at least 30 minutes until the flavors soak in.