Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Another day, another sweet and sour sauce. In today’s sweet and sour sauce attempt, I dropped the soy sauce from the recipe which significantly improved the colour of the end product (using some ketchup to get a nice reddish colour rather than a yellow one). And I used vinegar to get some sourness into the sauce. I wanted to use red wine vinegar for that and had to buy a new bottle. Which put me into yet another supermarket hate-hate situation: In a medium sized supermarket I couldn’t find any red wine vinegar.

Holy crap! Red wine vinegar perhaps isn’t the most basic form of vinegar but it is pretty close. So what do they sell? At least half a dozen different kinds of cheap Balsamico vinegar. Now back in the 1990s when the world discovered balsamic vinegar that would have been exciting, but since, everybody started thinking: Uh, I’ll use the poncy dark vinegar instead of the usual stuff. It just tastes so much better and it’s sooo sophisticated.

Which is true in a way – Balsamico can be delicious. You can even drink it straight from the bottle if you feel like it. But it is in no way a replacement for traditional vinegar. I can hardly even consider it a proper vinegar because its taste is so damn soft. And it has too much of a unique and distinct taste to be able to replace proper vinegar. Sure, there are things that are perfect with Balsamico. Rucola salad with Parmesan, could be an example. But I think that’s because the rucola has a slightly bitter and distinct taste of its own, so you don’t need a strong dressing for it. On a normal salad, however, a vinaigrette with proper vinegar is hard to beat and balsamic vinegar will just taste lame.


But all those stupid hipsters and clueless housewives went buying Balsamico anyway because it was ‘special’ and they don’t give a damn about what their food tastes like. And because of that I can’t buy a decent red wine vinegar at the supermarket. Being me sucks.

Because it was getting late (thank you very much German laws for limiting opening times) and I wasn’t in the mood for tracking down the red wine vinegar elsewhere (thank you very much for being hungry) I went with a somewhat gross looking plastic bottle of wine/brandy vinegar that at least had some wine in it. And had all the classy feeling you’d expect from something you buy for 29 Cents in a supermarket. Of course that vinegar gave the desired sourness as well and I wouldn’t promise that I could actually tell the difference of vinegars used while cooking when tasting the final dish, so the main effect of this probably was to annoy me (and keeping the red wine vinegar on my shopping list – because I guess the cheap vinegar might ‘stand out’ when used in a vinaigrette rather than in a sweet and sour sauce).

My current recipe for the sauce uses some garlic, some onions, sliced carrots, sliced zucchini (which I increasingly like as a staple vegetable ingredient), a bit of finely sliced ginger, pineapple (from a tin…), a glass of water with corn starch to give the nice and sticky feel to the sauce, some of the vinegar and some ketchup for extra colour.

The sauce’s taste starts being all right. But what was really nice today was the chicken that I used for the dish. Rather than just stir-frying it with the veg, I followed another recipe from the net that suggested to dip the bit sized chunks into a mixture of milk and eggs, then cover it with a bit of flour and deep fry it. That worked out wonderfully (up to the deep-frying smell all over the place) and everybody really liked the result.

So what’s next? Any more recommendations for what I could try? Any good variations?

November 15, 2006, 0:48

Tagged as food.


Comment by Simone Manganelli: User icon

Oh. Good. Lord.

I feel you on that red wine vinegar thing. Well, to be precise, the supermarkets near where I live all carry red wine vinegar, but I almost always prefer red wine vinegar to the hoity-toity balsamic vinegar that’s always used nowadays. The one salad for which I do prefer balsamic vinegar is one consisting solely of radicchio (very bitter lettuce) and thin slices of garlic cloves: a perfect example of something already having a strong flavor and needing a milder dressing. (I highly recommend this salad, by the way, though.)

I also hate the trendy let’s-serve-bread-and-oil-and-balsamic-vinegar-as-an-appetizer at expensive Italian restaurants over here in America. Real restaurants in Italy don’t do that. Or at least they didn’t used to, until they started reverse-importing this awful habit. Arg!

Um.. so… I can’t really offer any recommendations for improving your sweet and sour sauce, though. Can’t say I’ve ever tried making my own. Sorry for ranting in your comments. :sheepish:

November 15, 2006, 4:33

Comment by Dan: User icon

I was bought a little shaker of MSG for my birthday - they use that in sweet and sour sauce don’t they? ;-) And I’m pleased that you’ve found a suitable use for chiken - it’s not that bad after all is it?

November 15, 2006, 14:02

Comment by perry: User icon

I am 79 and from an italian family. Years ago my grandfather, and my unlcles made their own red wine from grapes. They also had a vinigar barrel in which they put wine that was left over or was turning sour. This red wine vinigar was was unique in flavor and was a thousand times better than what was sold in store both past and present. Balsamic vinigar can not realy compare. After tasting real homemade red wine vinigar I must state that balsamic is CRAP no matter what it costs.

August 26, 2009, 19:37

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