Guide to Rice Vinegar

12th August, 2021

Rice vinegar has a sweet and mild taste out of all other vinegars whether that’s balsamic, apple cider or distilled white vinegar. Popular within Japanese cuisine, rice vinegar comes in various types, from pure rice vinegar to seasoned rice vinegar. Let’s explore what exactly rice vinegar is, how it’s made and used in Japanese or fusion cuisine. 

What is rice vinegar? 

A vinegar is an aqueous solution of acetic acid and trace compounds that may contain flavouring. 

Rice vinegar originated in Asia and has trace compounds of rice – the main ingredient that makes rice vinegar. The product varies by region, with Chinese rice vinegar, Japanese rice vinegar, Korean rice vinegar and Vietnamese rice vinegar all having a slightly different taste depending on the type of rice and production process. 

Japanese rice vinegar, which contains around 5% acetic acid, has a very mild and mellow taste. The colour can range from colourless to pale yellow depending on whether it’s pure rice vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar. 

Pure rice vinegar, like Mizkan’s Yumai, is made of koji rice which is Japanese-style short grain rice and is used as a fermentation starter for many other products. Koji is also used to make a variety of fermented ingredients for Japanese cuisine such as sake, miso, shio koji and soy sauce. 

What’s the difference between rice wine and rice vinegar? 

Despite the similarity in names and both products being made from fermented rice – rice wine and rice vinegar cannot be used interchangeably due to the notable difference in flavour and alcohol content. 

Rice wine is sweeter in taste compared to rice vinegar and used in dishes to achieve a sweetness and depth in flavour. It can be added into marinades and sauces to enhance their flavour and add a sweet complexity. The product is also consumed as an alcoholic beverage.  

Rice vinegar, which undergoes additional processing steps, has a more acidic taste due to the addition of acetic acid to make vinegar and lower alcohol contents. The product is mainly used to add a touch of mild sweetness and acidity in a huge variety of dishes from making sushi rice to making a mushroom, avocado & broccoli poke

How is rice vinegar made?

As mentioned above, the prime ingredient that makes rice vinegar is koji rice (other types of short grain white rice may not give the desired flavour). The brewing process consists of a double fermentation process. 

Firstly, steamed koji rice is left to produce amylase enzymes, which converts the rice starches into sugar. Secondly, sugar is converted into alcohol through ethanol fermentation using yeast. Lastly, acetic acid bacteria is used to further ferment alcohol and convert it into rice vinegar. The product is produced as a result of acetic acid levels being increased and alcohol levels being lowered. 

Rice vinegar uses 

Japanese rice vinegar is widely used in Japanese cuisine, but it can also be used in fusion dishes such as taco rice or even European versions of Japanese gyoza like these puttanesca potstickers (Italian version of Japanese gyoza). 

Mizkan’s rice vinegar, Yumai, offers a clear aroma, mellow acidity and rich flavour to a variety of dishes. The product can be used for:

  • Pickling 
  • Sushi rice 
  • Marinades
  • Cocktails 
  • Stir-fries 
  • Dipping sauces
  • Salad dressings 

Does rice vinegar go bad?

Although it’s very unlikely that rice vinegar will go bad, there are chances that it may lose its freshness, complex taste and acidic properties over time. 

The best before dates given by manufacturers are often an estimate of how long the vinegar would have the best taste and texture, which means they are still safe to use after that date. 

With proper storage, the freshness and complex taste of rice vinegars can last as long as you want. An unopened bottle can last for decades, while an opened bottle can last around five years before it starts losing its acidic properties. 

We hope this article has helped you understand Japanese rice vinegars and how they can be used in various recipes. If you’d like to get your hands on Mizkan rice vinegars – get in touch with us today!