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Sauces, Seasonings, and Spices
Winter Volume: 2011 Issue: 18(4) page(s): 16, 17, and 26
In earlier times, most Chinese made their own vinegar. References to vinegar are in the Shen Nong classic dated circa 2000 BCE. But there are no specifics about how to make any. Then called liu, some time later called cho, and today more commonly known as ku jiu, the name has changed while the uses for it have expanded. Also expanded is appreciation of different kinds of vinegar and the many more tastes available.
At one time, rice vinegars were most popular. Some still are while others were and are now made from barley, millet, and other grains, from fruits such as plums, dates, peaches, and cherries, and from other assorted sweets such as honey.
During the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279), several ways to make vinegar are mentioned in the Mo Tzu but no mention of how to make it even though they state there are twenty different ways. Was it because quite a few vinegars were made from poor wines? Both good ones and those less than good were made, and various flowers and leaves were often added to them for flavoring.
Early and current famous vinegars are made in the Fujian Province, also in the Shanxi, Jiangsu, and the Sichuan Provinces. People from other places also tout their vinegars as great. One such is in the city of Qingdao in the Shandong Province. A good friend brought me a bottle from there, its label illustrated on this page. It is very special and my family will be sad when it is all consumed.
As good as this gift is, and it really is very good, Qingdao vinegar is not considered tops among China’s vinegars. We are not sure which vinegar takes that honor. Langzhang, a town some two hundred miles from Chengdu, is called the 'City of Vinegar' and one reason is, that in 1915 they sent a vinegar to the Panama Pacific International Exposition where it won a gold medal.
There are many other Chinese vinegars, one a colleague brought us from Qingdao that is wonderful and pictured here. Some vinegars have names based on location where made, differences in taste, and the main ingredient they are made from. These and all vinegars are different in color, and used in different ways. For example, red vinegars, often made from red rice, are loved as dips for meats and vegetables. They are rarely used in cooking. White vinegars, often made chemically, are most often made from white rice. Mild or not, they are most popular for pickling. Black vinegars, usually made from black rice, are popular in cooking and as dips at the table.
In China, vinegars are also used as a beverage, and for that do read the article in this issue by Hsi Ming Lee and see a picture of a vinegar sold in a pouch in Volume 18-2. Two bottle of vinegars as a beverage are pictured in her article. The Chinese believe vinegar a health drink valuable for various medical conditions. One was discussed by Stella Change in Flavor and Fortune’s Volume 7(3) as a soup for pregnant and nursing mothers. They need to increase their calcium, and this soup has lots of it.
Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners (TCM) recommend equal parts of fresh ginger and garlic in five times their weight of vinegar to prevent the common cold. Before using this mixture, they say to seal the crock and store it for one month, then consume two teaspoons after every meal. Another use is for relief from indigestion from over eating. For this one should take a tablespoon of vinegar and some green tea leaves that were steeped for five minutes in boiling water. For headache, the suggestion is to boil some vinegar and inhaling its fumes. And, for obesity the recommendation is to drink one to three tablespoons daily. These are but a few uses; they and many others are found in a 1992 volume by Li Beng-shen and others titled: Cu Dan Zhi Bai Bing or the Treatment of Hundreds of Diseases with Vinegar and Eggs.
Other uses found elsewhere include drinking vinegars to prevent gall stones, preventing the flu, reducing blood pressure, and curing a cough. The TCM practitioners report that vinegar is sour, its nature warm, and that it enters the liver and stomach channels, and when needed, stops bleeding, removes toxins, and kills worms.
Many Chinese foods are fried in vinegar to speed their health impacts. One is to mix soy sauce with vinegar and apply it to areas that itch. Vinegar is also recommended to those losing hair. They say to mix some daily with hot water and rub it into the scalp. Other uses include taking some to control night sweats.
One can go to the vinegar museum in the Tang Dynasty temple to the Goddess of Mercy in Langzhang, the vinegar city to learn other vinegar effects and what it means if you see some in a picture. There, it says someone is jealous. Baoning vinegar, made in this city, is manufactured from rice, dried kernels of corn, bran, and some fifty different herbs. Drinking this kind, the Chinese believe, preserves beauty. So do visit there and get yours. Must advise we have yet to find any where we live. Easily recognizable, it comes in bamboo baskets sealed with rough straw and blood, or in bottles, also in pig bladders.
Chinese vinegar, often a combination of ingredients, is milder and sweeter than American vinegars and stronger than Japanese ones. Do you know that a 'vinegar mother' is this item's starter used to make vinegar. When you find some, keep it and learn to make your own. One only needs a large dark glass bottle, a small amount of cotton or gauze to cover the bottle’s top, some wine or fruit juice, this mother, and some time/patience to let it do its own thing; three to six months patience.
|Chicken with Fermented Bean Curd
1 pound chicken thigh and breast meat, cut into two-inch even-size pieces
1/4 cup fermented red bean curd, mashed
1/4 cup high-gluten flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tablespoon crushed brown slab sugar
1/8 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper
2 cups vegetable oil
1. Dry chicken pieces with paper towels.
2. Mix mashed bean curd, flour, cornstarch, sugar, five-spice powder, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper and mix with the chicken pieces and set aside covered in the refrigerator for one hour.
3. Heat oil in a wok or a medium-size pot, and deep-fry the chicken until golden color and still a little pink at the bone. Then drain on paper towels for two minutes before putting into a bowl and serving.
|Potato Strings in Black Vinegar
1 to 2 large potatoes, cut into thin slices then into thin strips
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large cloves garlic, sliced then cut into very thin strips
1/4 green sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/4 fresh red hot pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons black Zhejiang vinegar
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Mix potato strips and salt and two tablespoons cold water, and set aside for fifteen minutes. Then drain.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add the vegetable oil and the garlic strips and stir fry for half minute, then add the potato strips and the green pepper strips and stir-fry for three minutes before adding the fresh hot red pepper strips. Stir-fry for one minute more, then remove to a serving bowl.
3. Toss with the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, then serve.
|Carrot and Daikon in Ginger Sauce
1 carrot, peeled then cut into three-inch long thin strips
1/2 daikon, peeled then cut into three-inch long thin strips
1 stalk Chinese celery, veins removed, then cut into three-inch long thin strips
1 Tablespoon black Zhejiang vinegar
2 Tablespoons Swatow rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Toss carrot, daikon, and celery strips together.
2. Mix both vinegars, sugar, shredded fresh ginger, and the sesame oil, and set this aside for five minutes. Then toss with the vegetables, and serve.
|Pork Belly in Fish sauce
1 pound pork belly, cut into half-inch thick slices
1 knob or three Tablespoons fresh ginger, cut into thin slices
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, then each cut into four pieces
2 Tablespoons sa cha sauce
2 Tablespoons fermented fish sauce
2 Tablespoons red Chinese rice vinegar
1. Mix pork belly pieces, ginger, and onion pieces and set aside for fifteen minutes.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add oil, then the pork belly pieces and stir-fry until they are brown and crisp on the outside. The add garlic cloves and frying for another minute.
3. Then add one cup cold water and the two sauces and the vinegar. Reduce heat, and simmer covered for two hours or until very tender.
4. Remove pork belly and any other solids to a serving bowl. Bring the remaining liquid to the boil, and stir for about three minutes until thickened. Then pour this over the pork mixture and serve.
|Crisp Fish Skin
1/2 pound fish skin from carp or any fish with thick skin, scales removed and cut into two-inch squares
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon black Zhejiang vinegar
1 Tablespoon thin fermented fish sauce
1 Tablespoon chopped peanuts
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1. Blanch fish skin squares in boiling water for two minutes, then drain and set aside spread out on paper towels.
2. Soak fish skin pieces in ice water for five minutes, then drain and strain into a small serving bowl.
3. Add vinegar, fish sauce, peanuts, sugar, and soy sauce, and serve.
2 cups vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 pound tripe
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled and sliced then cut into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic and black beans
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 Tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese white rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons of cold water
3 Tablespoons minced scallion or another green
1. Blanch the tripe in water for one minute, then put it into cold water to cool it quickly.
2. Heat oil in a wok or beep fry pan, and oil blanch the tripe for two minutes, then drain and set aside on paper towels. Set the oil aside for other uses.
3. In the oil left in the wok or fry pan, about a tablespoon, stir-fry the ginger and garlic for one minute, then add the chili paste, wine, and vinegars, and toss until well mixed, then add the sugar and stir once more.
4. Add the tripe and mix well, then stir-fry for one minute. Add the cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute or until thick, then remove to a bowl, toss with the greens, and serve.