Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" all purpose vinegar seasoning

Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes in "Awase-zu" Dressing

Back in my last trip to Kyoto, I visited Murayama Zosu, who makes famous "Chidori-su" brand vinegar and is one of the oldest and most traditional rice vinegar makers in Japan. During the visit, Murayama-san, the owner of the company kindly gave gifts of their products to my friend and I. One of them was Chidori-su brand's "Awase-zu", which is their rice vinegar, seasoned with mirin, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and yuzu juice.

Their "Awase-zu" was so round, delicate, and tasty. I used it for so many different dishes and used up so quickly. I really wanted to make a similar "Awase-zu" myself, but the only clues were the ingredients list in the back label of the bottle and my memory of the aroma.

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After a few test kitchen experiments, I could make my version of "Awase-zu", which has the closest aroma and flavor to their "Awase-zu"! I was so happy. So, I put mine in the original Chidori-su's "Awase-zu" bottle.

For the best result, I highly recommend you find premium Kyoto brand vinegar, which is brewed to best result with very natural and mild flavors. But, I know it's not easy to find such vinegars in the US, so you could also make it with other Japanese brands' rice vinegar with milder acidity level (about 4.2%).

Here's my "Awase-zu" recipe.

Kyoto-style all purpose "Awase-zu"

Ingredients: (for approx. 1.5 cups or 300 ml)
1 cup (240 ml) rice vinegar (4.2% or 4.3% acidity level)
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons light color soy sauce ("usukuchi shoyu")
4 teaspoons yuzu juice

  1. In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients except for the yuzu juice. Set over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. 
  2. As soon as it starts boiling, turn off the heat. Add the yuzu juice and let it cool it down.
*This "Awase-zu" can keep at a cool storage for a while (I don't know exactly how long, because I use it up quite fast and make a new batch every so often.)

You can simply drizzle this "Awase-zu" over grilled fish, seaweed salad, etc. Or, mix with olive oil with some salt and pepper and make Japanese-style vinaigrette.

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Here's one of my regular dishes made with "Awase-zu" this summer. I got an inspiration to make this when I visited accessory designer, Chan Luu's beautiful home for breakfast. Chan is a wonderful cook and she made marinated heirloom tomatoes with white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Japanese-flavored Marinated Herloom Tomatos

2 pounds (900 g) heirloom tomatoes

1 tablespoon "Awase-zu"
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon raw brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vegetable powder (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper  to taste

some dill

  1. Blanch the tomatoes in simmering water for 10 seconds. Shock them in ice water and peel the skin.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Put them in a strainer and let them drain excess liquid for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, combine the tomato wedges and the marinade. Add some dill leaves and gently mix them together with a large spoon.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, stir a couple of times for even marinade.
This dish is like a eating gazpacho. It's so tasty and you want to drink up all the juice to finish the dish.