Zhenjiang vinegar (also commonly called Chinkiang) is a dark, aged vinegar made from fermented glutinous rice that conveys a rich, musky, smoky, and slightly sweet flavour. This style of vinegar is made in different Asian countries, but Zhenjiang reputedly turns out the best stock. There are also some excellent Japanese black rice vinegars, but for this noodle dish I recommend sticking with Chinkiang.
There are a couple of ingredients in these Zhenjiang vinegar noodles that add some prep time – the fried shallots and accompanying flavoured oil – but once you’ve got them out of the way the rest of the dish comes together in a snap. And once you have these toasty kitchen weapons to hand, you’ll find yourself using them to spruce up many a meal.
While you can use virtually any type of noodle you have to hand, I prefer wheat based threads. Specifically, I am partial to alkaline noodles; any fresh ramen style noodle will hold its own here. You can buy fresh noodles in sizeable East Asian supermarkets, and will find an abundance of options in Chinatown. The Vietnamese chain Longdan is also reliable, and where I often buy the Jan Jan noodles pictured.
Serve the Chinkiang noodles warm or cold, and if you should be lucky enough to find yourself with leftovers I advocate for stir-frying.
Smoky Five Minute Zhenjiang Vinegar Noodles
These noodles are salty, sour, and ever so slightly sweet. The dressing combines full-bodied, slightly sweet Chinese black vinegar with fragrant smoked paprika and soy sauce for a rich, complex flavour. Shallot oil adds a toasted note and the fattiness improves the overall texture of this simple dish. If you have all of the ingredients to hand, dinner will be on the table inside five minutes. Depending on the type of smoked paprika you use the noodles may pack a little heat, so keep this in mind when deciding just how heaped your half teaspoon ought to be.
- First make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, shallot oil, smoked paprika, and sugar together in a medium sized bowl.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook per packet instructions. Just before the noodles are done, add the bean sprouts. After 20 seconds drain, tip the lot into the dressing bowl, and immediately toss to combine.
- Serve the noodles with chopped spring onion and fried shallots.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 2 (or one very hungry person)
- Cuisine: Chinese fusion