If you’re a lover of a Chinese-inspired feast, or perhaps a fan of a dumpling or five, you’ve probably already encountered chinkiang vinegar. A staple ingredient in China, this black vinegar is an ingredient that can transform your Asian cooking. It also makes a killer dipping sauce, as it’s got a delightful tangy, acidic and sweet flavour. But what exactly is chinkiang vinegar, also know as zhenjiang vinegar? And how on earth can you use it? Let’s do a deep dive!
It’s a type of vinegar made with glutinous rice that is very popular in Chinese cooking. The extensive ageing process of at least six months (or even up to several years!) is what gives it its deep colour.
Get ready to meet your new favourite condiment.
Like other vinegars, it has a tanginess to it. But it’s also so much more complex than other vinegar varieties. White vinegar, for instance, has a sharpness to it and is pretty sour, but this has a lot more depth. It’s got a rich earthiness, with notes of malt almost. And there’s also a delicate smokiness to it.
Chinkiang vinegar isn’t as sweet as balsamic vinegar either as it’s made from grains, not grape juice.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a dumpling house or having dim sum and wondering what exactly that sweet, sour, and rich dipping accompaniment was, chances are it involved chinkiang vinegar. You can use it for almost anything: a delicious dipping sauce for your dumplings, tossed over some hot, thick noodles or even as a component in your next salad dressing.
Our Bang Bang Noodles feature zhenjiang in its sauce.
This amazing condiment is very easy to find. You can find it in the Asian sections of most major supermarkets, instore or online, and from most specialty Asian grocers.
Since it’s acidic in nature, there’s no need to store your chinkiang vinegar in the fridge. A cool, dry place like your pantry is just fine. It’s best used up within a year, as otherwise it may decline in quality and lose its acidity and flavour.
If you can’t quite get your hands on it, fear not, there’s some pretty simple substitutes that you can use instead. A really simple substitute is half balsamic, half white vinegar. It’s obviously not as good as the real deal, but in a pinch it’s a good replacement.