Japanese rice vinegar (Recipe: carrot beet salad)
In a pantry filled with olive oils from Italy, Spain, California and Trader Joe's, there's bound to be a vinegar or two. Or more. Welcome to Vinegar Week, Day 2.
In a blind taste test, would you be able to tell the difference between Japanese rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar?
Would you know which is which?
Does it matter?
Not so much.
In fact, they are virtually the same product, as both are made from rice and not from wine. Both are pale in color, slightly sweet, moderately acidic, and mild in flavor. And in most recipes they are interchangeable.
Kind of like ketchup and tomato ketchup, if you catch my meaning.
Rice vinegar is made from distilled fermented white rice, slowly brewed over a period of one month. The Marukan and Mitsukan brands are excellent, and they're easy to find in supermarkets and Asian groceries. When a recipe calls for rice vinegar, generally it means this Japanese rice (a.k.a. rice wine) vinegar. There are Korean rice vinegars (much stronger), and Chinese rice vinegars (red and chinkiang), and of course there's shao hsing wine, which is not vinegar but is made from rice.
If you don't have rice vinegar, a.k.a. rice wine vinegar, you can substitute cider vinegar or white wine vinegar in most recipes, as in these dipping sauces, marinades, stir fries and salads. What you should not substitute, unless a recipe calls for it, is seasoned rice vinegar -- which is rice vinegar pumped up with sake, sugar and salt -- or mirin, which is sweetened rice wine for cooking.
Confusing, isn't it?
Carrot beet salad
Refreshing for summer and so yin-yang on the plate, this salad serves 6.
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups finely shredded carrots
4 cups finely shredded peeled raw beets (approximately 3/4 lb)
Baby spinach leaves, for garnish
In a blender or food processor, puree first seven ingredients. With motor running, add olive oil in a stream and blend until smooth. In separate bowls, toss carrots with half of the dressing, and toss beets with remaining half. Divide carrot salad and beet salad among 6 plates, and garnish each plate with spinach leaves.