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What is Black Chinese Vinegar(s), and how’s it different from Balsamic?



Dark Chinese Vinegar! In this video we wanted to give an introduction to the main types of aged Chinese vinegars, compare them a bit with Balsamic, and do a taste test of sorts to see how well different types of vinegars – Chinese and Western – can work as a dumpling dip.

0:00 – What are the “big four” Chinese aged vinegars?
1:22 – Zhenjiang (Chinkiang) Vinegar
2:20 – Chencu (Shanxi Mature) Vinegar
3:24 – Sichuan Baoning Vinegar
4:15 – Fermentation method for Zhenjiang, Chencu, and Baoning
5:10 – Fujiang Yongchun Vinegar
6:49 – Is Balsamic the same?
7:51 – Vinegar Dumpling Taste Test
16:09 – How to substitute Chinese Dark Vinegars?

HOW TO BUY

Of the four vinegars, three seem to be around in the west – Zhenjiang (Chinkiang), Chencu (Shanxi Mature), and to a lesser extent Baoning. Zhenjiang and Chencu should be very available at your local Chinese supermarket. The brand that we used in the video is on Weee but is sold out, though there’s also cheaper options:

https://www.sayweee.com/en/product/GoldPlum-Chinkiang-Vinegar/70806
https://www.sayweee.com/en/product/Zhengjiang-6-Year-Aged-Vinegar/12906

Zhenjiang is also available on Amazon (there are also cheaper options but this is the one we used in the video):

Chencu is a little harder to find, and is not on Weee, but is available on Amazon:

Baoning vinegar is available at Mala Market, but is sold out as of the time of writing this:

Baoning Handcrafted Vinegar (Sichuan Black Vinegar)

As for Yongchun vinegar, there have been reports of people seeing them at Chinese grocers (one blog online said that they were able to purchase it from Sungiven Foods in Vancouver), but does not seem to be purchasable online.

_______________________

Huge thank you to the channels “Miss Dou’s Fireworks” and “Qian Power Food” for the footage of the Suanlafen and making of the Yongchun vinegar, respectively.

Qian Power Food has a number of absolutely fantastic videos on his channel, me and Steph have been binging some of his content as of late. Lots of excellent Fujian content. Definitely check out the full video of Yongchun vinegar making here (in Chinese):

Miss Dou’s Fireworks unfortunately stopped posting late last year, but has a number of wonderfully shot food videos. This Suanlafen looks fantastic:

And check out our Patreon if you’d like to support the project!
http://www.patreon.com/ChineseCookingDemystified

Outro Music: คิดถึงคุณจัง by ธานินทร์ อินทรเทพ
Found via My Analog Journal (great channel): https://youtu.be/GHaL5H-VYRg

What do you think?

50 Comments

  1. Hey guys, a few notes:

    1. The spelling of “Chinkiang” came from an older romanization of Mandarin, while “Zhenjiang” is the modern pinyin system. Generally speaking, pinyin spellings will get a native English speaker closer to the correct pronunciation (you just need to remember that “x” is said like “sh” and “zh” is said like “j”). Another common older spelling that you see quite a bit in the food space is “Szechuan”, which should be pronounced “Sichuan”.

    2. Something we realized when I was cutting the video – Steph said that “Zhenjiang might not even be the most common in China”, but then didn’t say what WAS the most common in China. Chencu (Shanxi Mature) is probably the most common the country over, but that’s mostly base off of our own experience (don’t have any data on it or anything haha)

    3. So there’s an entire world of Chinese vinegars outside of the so-called ‘big four’ – almost every province will have multiple vinegars local to them. We settled on limiting this video to the ‘big four’ because they (1) include Zhenjiang and Chencu, the most common vinegars in China and (2) are the vinegars that tend to be internationally available (with the exception of Yongchun). But just know that the vinegar story definitely doesn’t stop there, and if you’re in China it’s definitely a subject worth diving into.

    That’s all I can think of for now, might edit a couple more in a bit. Again, huge thank you to all of your support and well wishes during our move to Bangkok – it’s been a rough couple months, but we’re happy to be on the other side of it.

  2. Thank you for this, the vinegar selections at our local Asian grocery is over whelming.

  3. Good Chinese black vinegar nearly reminds me of Worcestershire sauce but not that thick. I LOVE black vinegar.❤️❤️❤️

  4. Real balsamic vinegar shouldn't be wasted for cooking, it's extremely limited in production and pricy, it should be used as pure as it can and enjoyed as a gourmet experience. The cheap ones (even from Italy) are all without exception knockoffs.

  5. I think it’d be nice to have Chris include his ratings in the taste test, maybe not on camera if that’ll take too long but just seeing another person’s pallet would be interesting

  6. I've noticed that in Singapore the most common black vinegar is labelled "Tianding Vinegar" 添丁黑醋, is that a subvariety of these four?

  7. You've got me curious now, about how vinegars such as white wine/red wine/sherry or apple cider vinegar compare to these!

  8. im obsessed with zhenjiang vinegar and have been since i was a kid… will always drink the remainder leftover from dumpling dipping.

  9. Shanxi is my favorite. I was introduced to it from my favorite noodle shop and it’s great in noodle soup bowls. I was scoring Amazon for it in the pandemic. Might not be a traditional use (I’m not Chinese) but I made pickles with it and used them over rice bowls.

    Good luck settling in and happy to see your puppy!

  10. I wouldn't have compared it directly to balsamic vinegar, because there is a huge variety of balsamic vinegar, so which kind of are you comparing it to. It makes not to much sense.

  11. Just fascinating! I feel as if I just took a college course in vinegar! And so glad to see the pup got a treat.

  12. Great video. I only knew (and bought) the Chinkiang and Shanxi dark vinegars so far. For the white rice vinegar I typically use a vietnamese one, but I don't think they'll differ that much. I think I'll have to try to find the Sichuan one, as I love the fish-fragrant dishes but did them with Chinkiang vinegar as of now. Thank's a lot!

  13. I love this channel! I love your dog! I love all the information. I love Chinese food eternally!

  14. On the Drinking of vinegar:
    Maybe it is watered down for drinking, in similar fashion to roman "Posca".
    Posca was used by the roman legionnaries as a refreshing drink.

  15. i never knew vinegar would be so riveting to the point i can't pull my eyes away from the screen for a second. Hahahaha! We chefs are just weird like that XD

  16. Her delivery is getting quite good but the script too wordy and not focused enough. I would like to learn more about Chinese vinegar but not over a 17 min video. Maybe a 8 min one would make more sense.

  17. You are great at explaining the differences between the vinegar. Balsamic vinegar have good amount of differences depending on quality.High quality balsamic vinegar is great for dipping, I love dipping any bread in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I always buy Zhenjiang vinegar for cooking but it's too watery for dipping.

  18. Because I am stingy, for my dumplings I mix red rice vinegar, aged soy sauce, and chili oil

  19. By the "pig trotter giving to women after birth" do you mean 猪脚姜? I love it as a dude too.

  20. Yeah doing the Navy thing and streaming every place that's attached to and ocean you learn a few things about countries, like they all have that one food stuff that they are obsessed with. France? Mustard. Spain? Tinned seafoods. Italy? Pasta. Thailand? Fish sauce. USA? Sugery breakfast cereals. Go to any of those countries, pick a random grocery store and you will find an aisle packed with just that one thing…. And I guess, maybe dark vinegar is China's obsession….

  21. You should show the pīnyīn accents for those of us who, because or partly because of you, began learning mandarin. I mean, it’s your fault, you have to alleviate our suffering.

  22. What a great explanation of all the vinegars! Hope you are enjoying your travels and feel good about your decision.

  23. What is the difference between a Taiwanese Black Vinegar and a Chinese Dark Vinegar? It it a great substitution or a different ingredient entirely

  24. I cant remember when I finally learned what Chinese dark vinegar was, but it was an epiphany finally figuring out what that flavor was in various dumpling sauces I had. I never knew that there were 4 variations.

  25. Immensely useful, thank you! I really love these variety-testing episodes, they help a lot when going to the local Asian market (I live in a Spanish speaking country where things come with a seemingly auto-translated label in minuscule lettering in the back to meet local trade requirements, which is only halfway helpful).

  26. Having lived and worked in China for many years I can verify that many people drink Chen Cu, particularly.the aged varieties 老陈醋,commonly sold as single doses vials (medicinal). Lao Chen Cu and only from Shanxi's capital Taiyuan city, is the only dark vinegar you'll find in our kitchen. It's fermented base of sorghum gives it rich earthy tones.

  27. heehee. I actually take shots of balsamic every so often, [usually just fill up the cap, for a mini shot. is tasty! and has a bite like alcohol, but no poisoning, cheeper…tasty…why drink booze when you can have a nip of vinegar, or worchestershire sauce?]

  28. with the world wide trend of new chefs flipping traditional dishes on their heads, i wonder what kind of new vinegars and soy sauces will emerge in the near future!!

  29. I am curious how the aging process works. Is it barrel aged or clay pot? Is it sealed or open air?

  30. Also on a side note, malt vinegar is very similar to the type of light non-aged rice vinegar we would use to dip xiaolongbao with in Shanghai – it’s actually not Zhenjiang vinegar that is used, the balsamic flavor in Zhenjiang vinegar will cover up the delicate flavor of xiaolongbao.

  31. really interesting that people drink chencu straight– a lot of people in my home state (northeast usa), especially older people, swear by drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar every day in the morning. apparently (no idea how accurate the science is) the microbes in the vinegar are supposed to help keep the microbial culture in your gut healthy. i'm with steph, though, it's way too strong for me!

  32. Speaking of dumplings and northern Chinese cuisine, do you have any more northern recipes? I am really interested in recipes from the far north, but there seem to be the same few repeating (dumplings, di san xian etc.) and I would love to try more!

  33. IDK if those dumplings were made with some sort of alkaline dough that compensates all the acid from the vinegar, but if I was doing the tasting, I would surely need some bicarb at least 🤷‍♂
    Take care!

  34. I can’t watch this right now. Too many closeups of dumplings. I am too hungry to continue.

  35. I would really like you to try balsamic vinegar but the IGP DOP one produced in Modena. Even if I am italian it's so precious and pricey that I never tried it, but they always told me wonders about it and I would really like your "foreigners" objective take about it!

  36. That last Cantonese vinegar sounds similar in composition to “balsamic” that is quickly mass-produced outside of Emiglia-Romagna.

  37. Italian living in China here. I’ve bought many, smelled them and tasted them. Balsamic is til the best in every recipe 😂

  38. I think the pandemic has taught people the importance of multiple streams of income. Unfortunately having a job doesn’t mean security rather having different investment in the real deal