Friday, April 4, 2014

Vinegar (香醋)

Vinegar has been enjoyed by the Chinese for over 4,000 years. China was the first country in the world to make vinegar from grain. The written history of vinegar can be traced back to the 8th century BC. During the Spring and Autumn Period, the first professional vinegar workshop had appeared. The process of making vinegar begins when rice wine is fermented, by a process involving yeast that transforms the sugars from glutinous rice into alcohol.

Chinkiang vinegar, which originated in the city of Zhenjiang in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, China, is considered the best of the black rice vinegars. Zhenjiang black rice vinegar is famous worldwide for being acidic but not in a puckery way, fragrant and slightly sweet, and having a dark color. It is featured by color, fragrance, taste, mellowness and thickness. It is popular among Chinese people, especially in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. There are several different types of Chinese vinegar, and they vary in color and taste as well. When making rice vinegar, the fermentation process goes one step further than when making rice wine. They add a bacteria to turn the alcohol into an acid. It's easy enough to confuse the rice wine, and rice wine vinegar since they often sit side by side at the grocery store. The fact that rice vinegar is also called "rice wine vinegar" doesn't help matters much either. Black rice vinegar is very popular in southern China, where Chinkiang vinegar, is made. Normally black rice vinegar is made with glutinous or sweet rice, although millet or sorghum may be used instead. Dark in color, it has a deep, almost smoky flavor.

Li Shimin (Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty) sent several beautiful ladies to Fang Xuanling as gifts, to become his concubines.
However, Fang Xuanling didn’t dare to accept them because of his famous reputation for being the most “Hen-pecked husband” in the history.
Li Shimin dispatched a eunuch to hold a kettle of “poisonous wine” and sent out a decree to Mrs. Fang,
saying that if she doesn’t accept the beauties, she would be forced to drink the poisonous wine.
Mrs. Fang took the kettle and drank all of the “poisonous wine”, but she didn’t die,
for what was in the kettle was actually vinegar.
The Emperor was playing a joking on her, but impressed because she drank the "poisonous wine".
Li Shimin told Fang Xuanling, “Your wife is so fiery and forthright that I do respect her to some extent.
You should follow her ideas in the future”.
“Eating vinegar” has since been regarded as the symbol of jealousy caused by the third person who appears between two lovers or a couple.

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