No one really needs to list the amazing qualities of balsamic vinegar, but just so we know what we’re dealing with, here goes:

  • It’s sweet, tangy, has incredible depth of flavor and is able to lift almost every salad regardless of its ingredients.
  • When paired with fruit like ripe berries or stone fruit such as peaches, it extracts and heightens the intrinsic sweetness that can only come from fresh produce.
  • Drizzled over charred vegetables or added to a marinade for animal proteins like beef, poultry and seafood, it lends a smoky richness that’s hard to replicate.

And yet, we’ve come across something that is not just able to do all of these and more, but is cheaper and way healthier too. Many cooks are experimenting with Chinese black vinegar for being relatively economical, easy to use and delicious in its flavor profile.

Please don’t confuse it with soy sauce. Made from rice, black vinegar is almost similar to regular rice vinegar yet instead of its sharp, spiky flavor, it is remarkable for being mellow and pleasantly complex. This makes it perfect for so many things—you can start with using it as a mere dipping sauce for soba noodles, or snacks like rolls and dumplings. But you would do well to incorporate it into meat dishes that are being cooked using recipes that have an Asian theme because black vinegar enhances flavors instead of drowning them out.

Yes, the ever versatile balsamic vinegar will never get phased out despite the fact that it is expensive, but it’s nice to have an alternative that is easier on the pocket and generous on the palate.

What’s more, Chinese black vinegar has an enhanced nutrient content, something the Chinese have known for centuries. Although we’re relatively late to the party, now is a good time to try out some simple and healthy vinegar hacks like drinking a tonic made by adding a spoonful of black vinegar to a glass of water. This refreshing and surprisingly tasty drink eases high blood pressure symptoms, and can even help with conditions like athlete’s foot. It also makes a great summer drink, since vinegar causes the body to cool down.

Don’t wait too long, go get a bottle of Chinese black vinegar and start enjoying its rich, malty and slightly sweet flavor in your food.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.