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Is it still sushi if you do not use rice vinegar? It’s the question many sushi lovers have been asking, and we will answer this burning debate in this article.
In theory – you can make sushi without rice vinegar. But in reality – that will not be proper Japanese sushi, with all its flavors and delicious aromas. If you want traditional Japanese sushi – you need rice vinegar.
Stick with us to find out why your sushi needs to be with rice vinegar and what alternatives you can eventually use. You will be surprised with new pieces of information about the importance of rice vinegar in sushi.
Sushi needs Rice Vinegar
Let’s start by saying that sushi in its essence contains vinegar. How come? Well, the word “SUSHI” is derived from Su-me-shi. “The middle sound “me” was dropped later and became “su-shi”. Su means vinegar, (me)shi means rice.”
Therefore, sushi is vinegar rice. Still, think you don’t need rice vinegar? Sushi is its core is food that always involves vinegar, so if you don’t use rice vinegar like this, you will actually get a different type of food.
What exactly is rice vinegar? Rice vinegar is a sort of vinegar that is made from fermented rice. It is not so strong as regular wine vinegar, and it has a slightly sweet flavor. It’s a necessary piece in many Asian dishes, including pickled vegetables, salad dressings and of course – sushi.
And what about this secret combination between sushi and rice vinegar?
Sushi as a portion of food is defined by rice and how you season it. That’s why using rice vinegar is crucial. If you decide not to season the rice or use some other type of seasoning that is not rice vinegar – you are way off the route to eating fulfilling Japanese sushi.
Unless you only like Western versions of sushi that comes in different forms like stuffed with filling and various sauces, rice kinds of vinegar are a must for your sushi. By the way, these Western types of sushi that are sometimes fired and filled with different fillings are not very similar to real sushi.
And why do you need to add vinegar, after all, you might be wondering. Well you don’t want your rice to taste like regular rice order, do you?
Vinegar rice is the most crucial part of any sushi. Basic sushi indigents are rinsed and steamed short-grain rice, rice, sugar, and salt. This sweet and sour flavor and few essential ingredients are the challenges of authentic sushi.
To sum it up – for your rice to have the flavor like sushi rice, and to treat yourself with real sushi you need to add rice vinegar. So now we answered the burning question that many have been thinking – no, you can’t make sushi without rice vinegar. You can find out how to season cooked rice in this article
Why you shouldn’t use regular vinegar
Sushi is all about the balance of flavors and regular vinegar in sushi is just not a great fit. Regular vinegar is sharp and pungent, and that will not go well with other sushi ingredients.
In fact, regular white vinegar and rice don’t pair up at all, and you will get a weird clash of aromas.
On the other hand, rice vinegar is softer and goes well with soy sauce, and regular vinegar again does not combine well with it. You see, everything is against you using some other ingredient except rice vinegar!
Sushi is all about harmony and the perfect balance of flavors, and if you start with using regular vinegar, you will not end up well.
Regular wine vinegar is very different than rice vinegar. Rice vinegar serves to harmonize and sink in with the rice. And regular vinegar overpowers rice because of its acid and harsh taste.
The difference between these two is in ph value. Rice vinegar is mellow, sweet and has a lower ph value and they cannot be replaced with each other in any case or in any recipes (don’t trust what some recipes say).
Rice vinegar can’t be used for regular vinegar, and regular vinegar can’t be used for sushi. Period.
If you still insist on using regular vinegar, your rice won’t be adequately seasoned. You will actually get acid and bitter-tasting sushi. And that is not what decent sushi is.
If you are now thinking about reducing the quantity of vinegar you use – stop right there. Reducing the amount of liquid added to the rice will not make it any better. You just need to get the rice vinegar, and your sushi is on its way.
How to make your own rice vinegar
Rice vinegar is fundamentally made from fermented rice, and it will not be a hard task to make your homemade rice vinegar. You need a few simple ingredients, and your authentic sushi is on its way.
What you need to look out for is the amount of each ingredient in each step. And what are the ingredients? For your own rice vinegar, you will need:
1. White sugar
3. Egg whites
4. White or brown rice
Next steps include creating fermented rice, and from there – making the rice vinegar.
Step 1: Place your rice in a bowl and soak it in water for 4 hours. After 4 hours, filter the rice using a piece of fabric or cloth. What to do with the water? Leave it in the fridge overnight; you will need it later.
Step 2: Now, use the rice water! Add white sugar to your rice water. How much? For every cup of rice, water add ¾ cup of white sugar. Mix the sugar with rice water until it is melted, and it is formed in a uniformed mixture.
Step 3: It’s cooking time. Cook this new mixture that is made from rice water and sugar. Cook for about 20 minutes, and afterward let it cool off. After cooling, place the mixture in a glass container.
Step 4: Add the yeast! It’s calculating time again – for every 4 cups of your rice water and sugar mix, add a quarter of a tablespoon of yeast. Then, combine all other ingredients and mix it all together.
Step 5: Let it fermentate. The mixture now has to ferment which will take approximately five days to a week. How will you know when it’s done? Once the bubbles in your mixture clear up, the mix is ready.
Step 6: Second-time fermentation. Yes, you’ve read it right, the mixture that will become rice vinegar needs to fermentate for a second time. This time it will take a bit longer. Move the mixture into a clean glass bowl and let it ferment for 4-5 weeks.
Step 7: When the rice vinegar is done with the fermentation you have only one final step to make in order to have your rice vinegar. Filter the mixture using a clean cloth and boil it again. After the boiling, your rice vinegar may be a bit dingy. If you are bothered with that, use your egg whites. Add two egg whites for every 40 cups of rice vinegar.
And that’s it – you have your homemade rice vinegar!
Related Article: Can I Use Sushi Vinegar Instead Of Rice Vinegar?
1. Best substitutes for rice vinegar?
If you insist on using some different vinegar or something similar to the taste of rice vinegar, we got you covered.
• Apple cider vinegar
One of the best alternatives for rice vinegar is apple cider vinegar. It’s mild and sweet like rice vinegar and won’t overrule the rice. Actually, back in the days when rice vinegar was rare to find anywhere outside of Asia, the first Japanese cookbooks suggested adding a mild Apple cider vinegar as an alternative.
Apple cider vinegar has such a mild taste you can use it as an alternative for almost all vinegar.
• Diluted white cranberry juice
Diluted white cranberry juice? Seriously? Yes! The flavor of diluted white cranberry juice is also close in taste to rice vinegar. Maybe the acidity won’t be enough like with apple cider vinegar, but you can add a bit of lemon juice to substitute for that.
• Champagne Vinegar
Something fancy now! Champagne vinegar can also serve as a substitute for rice vinegar because of its similarities. Champagne vinegar is made from fermented champagne. Its flavor is light and delicate.
For the sake of its very mild taste, it can be used as an excellent alternative to rice vinegar in any recipe and provides a subtle flavor that won’t overpower the rice.
2. Does traditional sushi involve vinegar?
Yes, as we stated, rice vinegar is a must when eating real Japanese sushi.
Although many relate the term „sushi „with plain „raw fish,“ in fact, sushi is all about rice vinegar and not about the filling, which by the way may or may not consist of raw fish.
Related Article: Difference Between Japanese Sushi And American Sushi
And did you know that sushi was initially created as a means of preservation?
At some point (around the 16th century), the Japanese discovered that salted fish packed in rice underwent a process of fermentation that preserved the fish and also created a whole new level of savory flavors. And after the replacing of fermentation process with, of course, rice vinegar and fresh fish instead of fermented, modern like sushi was invented.