If you’re a big fan of tangy chicken, give this vinegar-glazed chicken a try. I first made this Hunan dish about a year ago from Grace Young’s Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge and found it positively addictive. I still come back to it again and again for its wonderful combination of smoky, tart, and spicy flavors.
There’s a big bottle of Chinese black vinegar on my counter that I’ve had for well over a year, surviving at least two apartment moves. I use it every week, from making dumpling dipping sauces to stir-frying dishes like kung pao chicken, but in a year (through intensive recipe testing, no less) it’s only about two-thirds done. Bottles of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and other pantry staples have been replaced, but somehow this bottle of black vinegar seems bottomless.
I realized the other day that I haven’t talk too much on this blog about Chinese black vinegar and its uses. If you’ve never had the chance to try it, and live near a big Chinese supermarket, I highly recommend you go to the vinegar aisle and buy yourself a bottle. The one to look for is called Chinkiang Black Vinegar from the Gold Plum brand label, and it looks like this is what it looks like:
Unlike white rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar from northern China is an aged vinegar made from black glutinous rice, wheat, millet, or sorghum.. (The Gold Plum version from the city of Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province, made with glutinous rice, is considered the premier brand.) The flavor resembles that of balsamic vinegar. It’s slightly sweet with a barely detectable smokiness, which is why it’s so great for dumpling dip. A bit of soy sauce, a bit of vinegar, a wee bit of sesame oil, and you have a classic simple sauce for all those store-bought or handmade dumplings.
As you may have seen on this blog, I frequently recommend in my recipes a good-quality balsamic vinegar as a substitute if you can’t find Chinese black vinegar. But the same could be said opposite, that if you run out of balsamic vinegar you can use Chinese black vinegar. Just a couple weeks ago I made salad dressing with black vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a spritz of lemon. It was delicious.
In Grace Young’s Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge, she has a good recipe for vinegar-glazed chicken, a Hunan dish that is also a quick and easy to stir-fry. A good two tablespoons of Chinese black vinegar is added at the end. I picked it primarily because I had all the ingredients on hand, including the chicken and scallions. To give you an idea of just how good it was, I had planned to stretch out the four servings to the next day, but ended up eating it all for lunch and dinner the same day. Try it out if you’re looking for a quick meal that has a complex tasting sauce, with tanginess, smokiness, and a spicy kick.
Adapted from Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 5 or 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths (optional: extra sliced scallion greens for garnish)
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar
- Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the 1/2 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, the sugar, cornstarch, Sichuan pepper, and salt. Stir so the chicken becomes well-coated with the marinade and allow it to stand for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sesame oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of the rice wine. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and stir-fry until just aromatic, about 20 seconds. Push the aromatics to the side, then add the chicken to the middle. Stir-fry for 2 minutes until lightly golden on the outside but not yet cooked through. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the chicken is well-coated with sauce. Drizzle in the vinegar and stir-fry for another 1 minute so the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and serve.
Recipe first posted Dec. 19, 2011. Updated December 17, 2012.