Chinese Black Vinegar June 2011

Excellence Food Biochemical Co Ltd Chinese Black Vinegar
Milder in taste to their European counterparts, Chinese vinegar is said to date back to the middle of the first millennium.
I have recently discovered the use of the black vinegars in my cooking, trying out a number of different ideas with them that seem to work quite well but is so dependent on the vinegar itself. A clean and not as overly acidic as European vinegars, most recipes I have looked at use what feels like a lot but once heated and additional ingredients added it seems to tone down even more so. Used more in Northern China, vinegars are used for pickling and preserving as well as adding tartness to dishes with heat. It adds that sweet and sour all at once.
There are a number available now in any good Asian supermarket without he Chinkiang brand being the most widely available. I picked up a new one the other day that is produced in Taiwan under try Excellence Food Biochemical Co and is made from glutinous rice vinegar, black rice vinegar, fruit and spice. More like a Worcestershire sauce, i tried it out with a fish dish.
I was pretty happy with the results as the fruit tartness mixed well with the chilles and coriander. I have tried this also with just plain black vinegar which is also nice too.

Whole Fried Snapper with Black Vinegar and Chilli Sauce
1 gutted and scaled fish-any variety will do, well washed and carefully make three long incisions int he fattest areas of the fish on each side-this will help the fish to cook evenly in the thicker areas
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely juliennned
big bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked from stalks and discard stalks
2 spring onions, white part only very finely julienned
1/2 cup black vinegar -any variety you can find
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a deep fryer or wok filled with grape seed oil till very hot.
Carefully slide the fish into the hot oil and cook it each side for 4 minutes depending not eh thickness of the fish
Remove and allow to drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil
Heat a fry pan or another wok with a  little oil and fry the chillies till fragrant (1/2 minute) before adding he vinegar, sugar and salt.
Bring to the boil and then add the coriander and spring onion.
Remove from the heat and plate the fish onto a plate with a deep rim to hold the sauce
Pour over the fish and serve immediately.

If you cut carefully, you can make the fish curl once it is served. I like to deep fry in a a wok to help this process as it keeps the fish in a curled position long enough to spoon over the hot oil that then helps it to keep its shape. You have to work fast as well as carefully to avoid the fish breaking once it is cooked or burning yourself! The cuts in the fish will also help this too and tend to curl the body of the fish. Be sure not to overcook the flesh so keep a very close eye on the colour of the flesh as you cook.


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