Black vinegar is amber-colored, with a mild acidity and robust aroma. It’s primarily brewed from brown rice and undergoes a long fermentation period.
Black vinegar, or kurozu (黒酢), is aged rice vinegar. It is usually aged for one to three years in clay vessels, compared to regular rice vinegar, aged for three months.
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What Is Black Vinegar
Black vinegar is a smooth and earthy jet-black vinegar used in Asian cuisine.
While different versions of the condiment exist throughout Asia, such as China, Taiwan, and Korea, Japanese black vinegar is made from brown rice. It is darker in color and flavor and has a distinct smell.
The condiment is also very popular in southern China. Chinese black vinegar can be made from wheat, millet, sorghum, or glutinous rice. The inky black condiment is bold, flavorful, and funkier than the Japanese version. For the best, look for Chinkiang Vinegar/Zhenjiang Vinegar (镇江香醋), which originated in Zhenjiang and is made from fermented black sticky rice.
The bottle below is from Kagoshima prefecture (southern Japan).
What Does It Taste Like
The taste is milder, less acidic than regular rice vinegar, and has a malty, smoky, and deeper umami-rich flavor. Long-aged vinegar has a more complex flavor.
How To Use
Use it like regular rice vinegar. Use as a dipping sauce for dumplings, to add flavor to noodle dishes and stir-fries, salad dressings, and more.
Where To Buy
You can purchase this black vinegar at Japanese grocery stores (I get mine at Nijiya Market). There are also other online stores that sell it.
How To Store
Keep opened bottles upright and store them in a pantry.
You can swap it for regular rice vinegar. Grain-based, white wine, and malt vinegar tends to be sharper than rice vinegar, so add sugar to tone it down if necessary. Some websites suggest using balsamic vinegar in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it as it tends to be sweet and syrupy.