While I respect people who crave complete control over their seasonings, I embrace the shortcut lifestyle that pre-seasoned ingredients afford me. Unsurprisingly, this includes seasoned rice vinegar, one of my favourite pantry secret weapons.
Seasoned rice vinegar is so good that I don’t understand why anyone who isn’t watching their sugar intake would buy the unseasoned stuff. It’s got the ideal balance of sweetness and salt to compliment rice vinegar’s distinctive, funky tang, and it’s good on everything. I use it all year round, but I go through it in the summer when fresh produce is at its peak: Zucchini, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, sweet corn, melon, peaches, and cherries are delicious on their own, but they’re even better with a splash of salty-sweet vinegar.
My favourite application is quick pickles. Like, “two ingredients and 10 minutes” quick. Thinly slice literally any vegetable, toss with seasoned rice vinegar, and rest for about 10 minutes to draw out some moisture. Toss again, have a taste, and add more vinegar or a pinch of salt if you think it needs it. That’s it.
You can take the pickling action as far as you like by adjusting the amount of vinegar in the finished dish: Use less for more of a marinated salad vibe, and use more for full-on pickle flavour. To show you what I mean, here are two of my favourite ways to make quick rice vinegar pickles, one from each end of the pickle spectrum.
Perfect pickled cucumber salad
Thinly slice 2 large cucumbers and place them in a shallow mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar; toss to coat. After a 10-minute rest, taste and adjust the seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
If you like, toss the cucumbers with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and a big ol’ pile of thinly sliced scallions or cilantro just before serving. This salad goes with with anything, but it was practically made to be eaten alongside cold peanut noodles.
Quick-pickled hot peppers
Slice 3-4 jalapeños (or 6-8 serranos) into 1 cm rounds and place in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add enough seasoned rice vinegar to come about halfway up the sides of the peppers. Put the lid on, shake to distribute the vinegar, and rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You can eat them right away, but these sweet-and-spicy flavour bombs keep in the refrigerator almost indefinitely and only get better with time.