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Sep 25, 2010 11:59 AM

Plum Vinegar?

Hi ChowHounds!

Yesterday I stopped at the local Asian market, on the lookout for plum vinegar. It was an ingredient in a supposedly Asian-style coleslaw dressing. Among the many sauces there, however, there was no plum vinegar. The owner actually laughed when she heard what I was looking for. "Just mix some plum sauce with vinegar!"

On the way home I stopped by the Co-op, and wouldn't you know, they carry plum vinegar. So is this a traditional ingredient, or is it something that is more appealing to the westernized version of Asian cuisine?

Regardless, it's delicious.

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  1. What you saw at the Co-Op, was it umezu? Which is really not a vinegar but often colloquially referred to as "ume plum vinegar" even though it is made by from the concentrated and pickled juices of the ume fruit.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Ipse: as in Umeboshi? Pickled plums? (or ume?) that sounds like it would be an OUTSTANDING acid component to have on hand for all kinds of flavorsome things, including as the acid in a poppyseed (or papaya seed) fruit salad dressing. Om nom. Gonna go out and find me some, find me some, find me some....

      1. re: mamachef

        Umeboshi is made from pickled plums (or ume).

        Yes, it is quite good.

        The Chinese have a drink called Sour Plum Juice ( 酸梅汤 or suān méi tāng), which is made from smoked umes. It's a great summer time drink. Sweet, sour and lip puckering good. Sort of like the Taiwanese version of American lemonade.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          The Suan Mei Tang is great -- I have a bottle in the refrigerator, and sometimes sneak a splash into cocktails. It's also great with hot water when I get a cold or sore throat. Amazing things can be done with it. Never knew if was made from smoked ume, thanks for the information.
          Glad you use "ume fruit" instead of "plum", which can be misleading. The best English translation for ume that I have heard is "Japanese Apricot" -- go figure!

          1. re: Tripeler

            Try a dash of suan mei tang concentrate in your pot roast next time, or your meatball mixture. You'll have your guests giving up their first born for your "secret" ingredient.


          2. re: ipsedixit

            In Korean Ume is known as maesil.
            Koreans have a concentrated syrup (매실차 - maesil cha) that is used to make "Plum Tea".
            The syrup can also be used as a flavoring agent in some dishes.

          3. re: mamachef

            Yes, indeed. I keep it on hand all the time. It's great in all kinds of things. If you don't have an Asian grocer with it on the shelf, try your local health food store. Ours carry it.

        2. Funny you asked. I had to go look in my pantry. I have a ume (plum) vinegar from Ohsawa. It says it is a product of Japan; it was just imported and distributed by a company in California. I also have a plum cider vinegar made by "Triple J" located in Pacifica, CA.

          No you aren't crazy! :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: achefsbest

            Thanks for the information everyone! Yes, it's umeboshi.

            I'll have to try and find suan mei tang. It sounds great.

            1. re: achefsbest

              Ume vinegar is used in Macrobiotic cooking, which was founded by George Ohsawa. Nightshades are avoided in the Macrobiotic diet and ume vinegar is sometimes used a substitute for tomatoes.

            2. Plum vinegar is a mix of sugar, plum (Japanese) and rice vinegar and is called's used in Japanese cuisine frequently. Elizabeth Andoh's recent book, "Washoku" has a number of recipes using it...

              1. This sounds like a fantastic idea, whatever it is! As an avid barbecue fan, I use plenty of vinegar to ensure smoke absorption and add tangy flavor to meats and sauces. Plum vinegar would make a great substitution for rice vinegar in my Chinese-style spare ribs recipe - - (most other recipes on my site have photos).

                3 Replies
                1. re: sizzlegrove

                  Just a note of caution and fyi. Plum (or ume) vinegar is quite strong in its distinctive flavor and really is not a 1:1 substitute for rice vinegar, which is mild and neutral in comparison.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Even so, most barbecue recipes (and barbecue sauce recipes) can stand up to very strong vinegars. If I am ever able to find it, I'll give it a try and post results on the blog.

                    1. re: sizzlegrove

                      But this isn't vinegar.

                      Before you add it, I would just advise you taste it first that's all. Certainly not trying to dissuade you from trying it. Just don't want you to end up with a big pot of chili that's totally unpalatable for you.

                      Cheers and good luck.

                2. It isn't vinegar at all but the salty brine with the infusion of tart ume.

                  You will have seen it in the supermarket but in a jar of pickled plums. Those will be the chinese ones.

                  Japanese tend to sell their ume out of the brine. They also use a more traditional method and add in perilla leaves which gives it that pink colour.

                  Chinese people might pour some on when cooking from the jar. It is also used as a sore throat and cold remedy.

                  Western people seem to be using it as part of salad dressings and as a component for certain sauces as western palates seem receptable to the zinginess.

                  I have seldom seen it for sale in Japan on its own although it is used for flavouring food.

                  Aside from that you do get plum vinegars which is actual vinegar with plum flavour which is added to drinks.