Wu Yin Taiwanese Black Vinegar
Taiwanese black vinegar is the wild child of the black vinegar family, more analogous to Worcestershire sauce than the Chinese black grain vinegars it’s commonly associated with. It’s used all across Taiwanese cuisine, from seasoning Oyster Vermicelli and Dan Zai noodles to dipping soup dumplings. Add a couple drops to soups and stews with a healthy grind of white pepper for a journey back to the streets of Taiwan.
It’s got a tangy, fruity taste that goes perfectly with Taiwanese food, but also great as a seasoning for grilled meats or cold salads. You could use it as a vegan sub for Worcestershire or in Japanese recipes for tonkatsu sauce and yakisoba. It’s not a good substitute for the rest of the Chinese black vinegar family. Compared to other vinegars, it’s very low in acid, only 3.1%.
This black vinegar is fermented naturally, steeped with pomelos, ume plums, and Taiwan lemons, and packaged in a long-neck glass bottle with a dispenser top. It’s colored with true caramel and has a hint of licorice extract, but not so much that you’d notice. The glutinous rice used in the vinegar is grown in Taiwan.
Where It's MadeGao Ji Wu Yin Vinegar 高記五印醋 is a Taiwanese vinegar producer that was founded in 1903. Now run by the fourth generation, it’s one of the longest operating vinegar fermenters in Taiwan; their product is used by some of the oldest and most well known eateries. The beloved noodle shop Di Xiao Yue 台南度小月擔仔麵 in Tainan uses Wu Yin Vinegar in their Dan Zai Mian, one of Taiwan’s most iconic street foods. Din Tai Fung used it back in their mom-and-pop days on Yongkang street, too.
A defining characteristic of Wu Yin vinegars (other than the top-notch flavor, complexity, and mouthfeel) is the use of sprouted wheatgrass in the fermentation process. Enzymes from the wheatgrass catalyze the conversion of rice into alcohol, a traditional way of making vinegar that’s related to, but not exactly the same, as using malted grain.
How It’s MadeThis is how the vinegar is produced: first, steamed glutinous rice (Taiwan grown!), wheatgrass, and water are mixed into a mash. The wheatgrass is sprouted in-house two weeks before and is pricked out, wheatberry and all, before mixing with the rice. The mash ferments anaerobically for two weeks, while the wheatgrass enzymes and naturally-occuring yeast convert the starches into alcohol. Just as red wine is the precursor to red wine vinegar, this boozy mash gives way to rice vinegar.
The next step in vinegar-making is converting the alcohol into acetic acid. The liquids are moved into a new terracotta vat, a starter culture of acetic acid bacteria is introduced, and the brew ferments for 8 months, until no alcohol remains. Wu Yin has been using the same bacteria culture for over 100 years; it’s transferred from one batch of vinegar to the next. It’s also present in the pores of the terracotta vessels.
Wu Yin makes all its vinegars this way. After fermentation is complete, the vinegars are processed into a wide range of vinegar products, from drinking vinegars to Taiwanese black vinegar. To make the classic seasoned rice vinegar 五印米醋, the brew is simply salted. A Chinese-style black vinegar is produced by adding caramel color (made literally by caramelizing sugar) and licorice extract.
Making Taiwanese black vinegar, which has its roots in Worcestershire sauce, is a bit more complex. Ume plums, green Taiwan lemons, and pomelos are matured separately for a year, each in its own vat of Wu Yin vinegar. Then, the fruit vinegars, black vinegar, and white vinegar are mixed together and seasoned according to a heritage recipe.
Tasting Notes and Usage
plum, molasses, lemon drop
Ingredients and Instructions
water, glutinous rice, wheat, plum, lemon, pomelo, sugar, salt, caramel (sugar), licorice extract
About Gao Ji Wu Yin Vinegar
Gao Ji Wu Yin Vinegar 高記五印醋 is a Taiwanese vinegar producer that was founded in 1903. Now run by the fourth generation, it’s one of the longest operating vinegar fermenters in Taiwan. Wu Yin Vinegar 五印醋 translates to Five Chop Vinegar, named after the 5 red labels attached to their vinegar vats in the old days.