Father's Day is June 16

I used to be amused by the number of Kewpie mayonnaise tubes my 85 year-old grandma had stashed in her packed fridge in Tokyo. I would visit her house every few months to clean out her fridge. She would forget that she already had certain condiments and kept buying them because they would get buried into the depths of her fridge. Out of sight, out of mind.

By the end of every clean-up session, I would have a few plastic bags full of rotting produce to trash and several once-used Kewpie or momiji-oroshi (spicy grated radish) that I would take home for my own, much tinier, fridge.

I've still got more than 50 years until I reach her age. That's why I was overcome with shock this morning when I was putting away my groceries to find that I had purchased a bottle of rice vinegar when I already had two. So now I have three huge bottles of rice vinegar in my pantry.

I had been meaning to post another installment in my ingredients series, and given that my senility is giving me hints (three hints to be exact), this seems to be a perfect time to discuss rice vinegar.

Japanese rice vinegar is made from rice or sake lees and yields a milder acidity percentage than all of the other vinegars I have in my pantry. For example, I have a red wine vinegar at 7% acidity, Safeway distilled white vinegar at 5% and rice vinegar at 4.3%. Because rice vinegar is my go-to vinegar for dressings and marinades, when I do use other vinegars they do seem super sour. In a taste comparison between raspberry, distilled white and rice vinegar, the rice vinegar tastes much milder than the other two--round, almost sweet.

komezu, vinegars

Although rice vinegar is most commonly used in Asian recipes, I have tried (with success) substituting rice vinegar in western recipes for salad dressings and dipping sauces.


Kaki and Arugula Salad with Rice Vinegar Dressing

One of my favorite dressings is a white wine vinaigrette recipe I adapted. All I did was substitute white wine vinegar for rice vinegar. You might remember my kaki (persimmon) and arugula salad with rice vinegar dressing.

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper


Japanify: Wafu Salad

My next favorite salad dressing uses rice vinegar, ponzu and wasabi. This is a dressing I came up with after frequenting an izakaya in Nakameguro, Tokyo. They served a pile of thinly shaved daikon with a wonderful wasabi dressing. I posted this wasabi ponzu dressing last year which I drizzled over a bunch of neba-neba (aka slimy) things including natto and wakame.

1/2 tsp of wasabi
Pinch of sugar
2 tsp of ponzu (I use Yuzu Passion)
1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil


Japanify: Sunomono Salad

Sunomono is a classic marinade with rice vinegar as the main ingredient.

3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dashi (or water) for thinning to desired taste (optional)

Rice vinegar is a staple in my kitchen along with soy sauce, miso, mirin and sake. Without rice vinegar, I can't dress my salads, make sushi rice or marinate veggies. Without rice vinegar, I am Kitchen Kastrated [sic].

Not to worry though, I am pretty confident that even when I am truly senile I'll still remember to pick up a bottle at the store.
Column: Japanify


  • I was just hanging around in a Japanese food store the other day and was contemplating what vinegar to get! I’m a fan of kokumotsuzu (which I think is made from grain rather than rice) as it’s more sour and reminds me of wine vinegar. But I love the different dressings you’ve made and will try them.

    sakura on

  • Dude, does Kewpie Mayo ever expire? Or is it in the same league as Twinkies?

    Irwin on

  • I have never bought kokumotsuzu before. Maybe I’ll pick some up when I go to the Japanese market next time. Let me know how your dressings turn out.

    yoko on

  • Just made the wasabi ponzu dressing! My palette says HOORAY! It loves the tang.

    Yes, Ir, I believe kewpie expires. Did I miss the part in this post about mayo?? Ha.

    Kayoko on

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