Like every other country, China has its own traditional alcoholic beverages. One of the most popular is rice wine. Although it is not as famous as its western counterpart, wine, rice wine is a staple in Chinese cooking. It is an indispensable ingredient in Chinese dishes and adds an element of balance and complexity to the food that you can’t get from using other ingredients.
Depending on its fermentation process, rice wine can be either clear or cloudy and varies in taste from sweet to dry. In fact, it has so many different flavors that it can sometimes be confusing to choose a brand. The good news is that there are plenty of substitutes you can use in place of rice wine.
Keep reading to find what’s a good substitute for rice wine?
What is Rice Wine?
Rice wine is a beverage made from the fermentation of rice. It originated in Southeast Asia and has spread to other Asian countries. It is available in different types and flavors, ranging from clear white to red or brown. The flavor depends on the kind of rice used, amount of alcohol added and the process of fermentation. While Japanese Sake is an example of a rice wine, Chinese Huangjiu and Choujiu are also produced as rice wines. Kulapo is a Filipino rice wine that has a deep reddish color. Makgeolli is an example of Korean rice wine; it has a milky consistency that resembles yogurt.
What Does Rice Wine Taste Like?
Rice wines have different tastes depending on how they are fermented and what kind of ingredients were used in making them. Sake, for example, has a mild taste with hints of fruits such as pineapple, melon and banana in it. It also has some umami taste due to its use of koji mold during fermentation. In contrast, choujiu has a bolder taste with prominent fruity notes and smells like nail polish remover due to its long fermentation period. Kulapo has a neutral smell but tastes very sweet because it is made out of young coconut sap while Makgeolli is sweet and
What Does Rice Wine Do for You in Cooking?
Rice wines are used in cooking to give foods extra taste and flavor. You can, of course, use white or red wines for this purpose but you may want to consider using rice wine instead.
Rice wine is usually made from sweetened rice. It is very popular in Chinese cooking and has been popular over the centuries. It is also known as Shaoxing wine.
Salt and spices are added to the sweetened rice before it is fermented. The fermentation process takes place in large urns. Once the fermentation process is complete, the wine is bottled and aged for a period of time that ranges from several months to a few years. The longer the wine ages, the smoother its flavor becomes. If you prefer a more mellow flavor, you should choose a rice wine that has aged for at least three years.
In Chinese cooking, rice wines are used as marinades for meats, seafood and even vegetables such as cabbage and carrots. They are also used to give dishes such as soups and stews extra flavor. Rice wine works well with chicken or fish dishes where shrimps are used as ingredients and it also works well with vegetables that are cooked in soups and stews.
If you do not have rice wine and need a substitute, here is the list of substitutions you can try:
7 Substitutes for Rice Wine
1. White wine
We suggest using white wine instead of rice wine in any dish, especially in dishes with meat. It’s a great substitute and will help you reduce the amount of alcohol and sugar in your diet.
The main difference between rice wine and white wine is that rice wine is sweeter and has a lower alcohol content than white wine. White wine is usually dryer and more alcoholic.
This means that when you use white wine instead of rice wine, you might need to add sugar or honey to your recipe to obtain the same sweetness level.
One of the common Asian substitutes for rice wine is gin. Many people confuse it with Japanese sake, but they actually have very different taste. Japanese sake was originally made with rice, so a lot of people mistake them as the same. But gin is distilled from grain or molasses while Japanese sake is fermented from rice.
Gin has a light flavor that goes well with meat dishes and other savory meals, but it’s not suitable for sweet dishes. In this case you should switch back to rice wine for the best taste results.
3. Dry Sherry
The best substitute for rice wine in this case is dry sherry. It’s made by fermenting a white grape called Palomino, so it’s similar to white wine in terms of color and flavor.
However, you should be aware that dry sherry and rice wine have a very different alcohol content. Dry sherry usually has 12-15% alcohol while rice wine is around 10%. So you’ll need less dry sherry if you want to use it as a substitute.
4. White vinegar
This is the most used substitute for rice wine among Asian cooking experts since it only has 1% alcohol content compared to rice wine’s 10%. So you can use it in almost any recipe without affecting the taste. The only thing to consider is the color, which is not as white as rice wine.
5. Apple juice
Many people already know that apple juice can be used as a substitute for rice wine because of its sweet and light flavor that goes well with meat dishes. However, we wouldn’t recommend using it if you want a similar color and flavor because most people prefer rice wine over apple juice because of its unique taste compared to other types of alcohols. Apple juice is also sweeter than rice wine, so you’ll need less sugar when cooking if you decide to use it instead of rice wine.
6. Lemon juice
This is another great substitute with a light yet sweet flavor. You can use it in almost any recipe, but keep in mind that it’s not as strong as rice wine if you want to maintain the color of the dish.
7. Grape juice
Grape juice has a very sweet, strong, and distinct flavor that’s great if you plan to serve fruit salad for example. It can also be used for other recipes that need an extra sweetness such as desserts or ice cream. It’s also one of the most popular substitutes for rice wine in Japan because it can maintain the color of the dish while still having a sweet taste.
Tips for Using Rice Wine in Cooking
When it comes to cooking with rice wine, there are a few simple tips you can use to ensure the best results.
- While rice wine has many uses in cooking, be sure not to add too much, as this can ruin the dish. The best way to make sure that you do not use too much rice wine is to follow your recipe closely.
- A smaller amount of rice wine are utilized in soups and other lighter-flavored dishes. However adding rice wine to soups as it boils can help to burn off alcohol and stop that it alters the taste of the dish. If you are marinating your meats, excessive rice wine could obscure the primary flavors. Avoid marinating the meat for too long , and rinse it out to prevent the alcoholic taste from lingering on the dish.
- In addition to these tips, there are a few things that you should avoid when cooking with rice wine. Avoid cooking any dish for too long after adding rice wine as it will cause a bitter/sour taste. To prevent this, do not add more than three tablespoons of rice wine per quart of liquid being cooked; if using a larger amount than this, be sure to boil off some of the alcohol before continuing with your recipe. Also avoid using any type of aluminum or steel pots or utensils when using rice wine in cooking as this can cause the rice wine to taste bitter.
- Rice wine can also be used in a variety of sweet and dessert recipes. When cooking with rice wine for a dessert recipe, be sure not to boil the rice wine, as this will cause it to lose its flavor. The addition of sugar when using rice wine in your dessert recipes will balance out the bitter taste and make it pleasant for consumption. If using too much sugar, however, you may need to add some water or other liquid to dilute the mixture; adding water will not affect the flavor of your dish but will ensure that your dish turns out right every time.
Any good cook knows that they should always have a few extra ingredients on hand in case they run out of something. Cooking is unpredictable, and it’s best to be prepared! This holds true for rice wine as well.
Trying to cook with a recipe that requires rice wine and you don’t have any on hand? Don’t worry! There are plenty of substitute for rice wine you can use in its place in order to keep your food tasting delicious.