Rice vinegar is similar in properties and taste to balsamic vinegar, though usually less sweet. Balsamic and rice vinegars are often used in similar applications in Eastern and Western cuisine, and can frequently take the place of each other.
Chinese rice vinegars are stronger than Japanese ones, and range in colour from clear to various shades of red and brown. Chinese and especially Japanese vinegars are very mild and sweet compared to distilled and more acidic vinegars which, for that reason, are not appropriate substitutes for rice vinegars.
White rice vinegar is a colourless to pale yellow liquid, higher in vinegar content and more similar to Western vinegars, but still less acidic and milder in flavour.
Black rice vinegar is very popular in southern China. Chinkiang vinegar, which originated in the city of Zhenjiang in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, China, is considered the best of the black rice vinegars. Normally black rice vinegar is made with black glutinous rice , although millet or sorghum may be used instead. It is dark in colour, and has a deep, almost smoky flavour. In addition to Zhenjiang, it is also produced in Hong Kong.
Red rice vinegar is darker than white rice vinegar, and paler than black rice vinegar, with a distinctive red colour from Red yeast rice , which is cultivated with the mold ''Monascus purpureus''. This vinegar has a distinctive flavour of its own due to the red mold.
In Chinese cookbooks, ? tablespoon of Western distilled white vinegar is stated to be equivalent in strength to 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar, and recipes which call for 4 teaspoons of red rice vinegar could be substituted with only 3 teaspoons of white vinegar. .
Japanese rice vinegar is very mild and mellow and ranges in colour from colourless to pale yellow. There are two distinct types of Japanese vinegar: one is made from fermented rice and the other, known as ''awasezu'' or seasoned rice vinegar is made by adding sake, salt and sugar. Seasoned rice vinegar is used in sushi and in salad dressing varieties popular in the west, such as ginger or sesame dressing.
Rice vinegar can be mixed with salt and sugar to make sushi vinegar, which is used to season the rice used in sushi.
''Ssal sikcho'' or ''micho'' refer to rice vinegar in Korean. Rice vinegar has been favored by Koreans for its good flavor and nutritious element. It is made with rice, ''chapssal'' , or ''hyeonmi'' and mixed with ''nuruk'' which is a Korean fermentation starter.