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Black vinegar - best brand?

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I've bought two bottles of black vinegar in the past two weeks, trying to find a flavor similar to what they use at Din Tai Fung (dumpling house in Arcadia, CA) but neither one is right. One is too vinegar-y, the other is "sweetened" black vinegar and it's of course too sweet.
I've mixed the two and that is slightly better.
I confess I bought the cheapest brands. Should I just buy whatever is expensive? Or is there a particular brand(s) or words I should look for on the bottle?
I want something versatile that I can use as dip for dumplings, as well as in recipes where it would be cooked.

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  1. I buy a brand of Chinkiang vinegar called Gold Plum. It's very nice, and also the one recommended by Fuchsia Dunlop in her book about Sichuan cookery.

    5 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Mine is Koon Chun brand and has worked well whenever I've used it...my favorite being Dunlop's Lamb Polo (pilaf).

      1. re: greedygirl

        Yep, the Chinkiang vinegar.

        1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

          But I say, not all Chinkiang vinegars are created equal! That's what I bought and it is just too harsh.
          I will try looking for Gold Plum

          1. re: CookieEater

            You are correct, but I wasn't at home to look at the brand I've been using, I mostly buy it by sight now. I have seen vinegars at the asian markets called simply "black vinegar", and those are always too harsh. The Gold Plum is what I've got also. And if memory serves, not much more pricey than the cheapest chinkiang on the shelf.

        2. re: greedygirl

          I agree. Gold Plum brand from China is aged for 3 years.

        3. Since Din Tai Fung is from Taiwan, I would recommend the unofficial Taiwanese brand black vinegar called "Kong Yen". You might be able to find it at 99 Ranch.