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Nihaizu and Sanbaizu – Japanese Seasoned Vinegars

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu 1

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu are both seasoned vinegars used in Japanese cuisine, sometimes as marinades or the bases for dipping sauces, but primarily as dressings for the salad type preparations known as ‘Suomono’ or ‘Aemono’ dishes. In this post, we will be looking at both preparations together as they are very similar in composition and function, with the latte being a sweeter elaboration on the former. Since both will last almost indefinitely once prepared, and since they each can form the basis for a whole range of more complex dressings, they are extremely handy to have on hand in one’s refrigerator… 

A Nihaizu always consists of Rice Vinegar seasoned with soy sauce, and a simple one might be limited to these two ingredients, but, just as commonly, the blend includes Dashi. A Sanbaizu, in contrast, is essentially a Nihaizu except that it also has Mirin, sugar, or a combination of the two, added to make it significantly sweeter.

The proportion of ingredients can variously for both preparations and, as such, there is no ‘correct’ recipe. Rather, you can adapt the blend to suit your own taste, or for the  intended use. A good starting point for each would be as follows:

  • Nihaizu – 1 cup each dashi and Rice Vinegar plus 2  tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • Sanbaizu – Nihaizu plus ¼ cup Mirin.

For Nihaizu, you can simply blend the ingredients and store in a suitable container. With Sanbaizu, however, it is common to heat the ingredients and simmer briefly to allow the sweetness to blend. This is not strictly required but is advisable if sugar is used.

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu 2

Many recipes will call for more Vinegar than Dashi (3 parts to 2 parts, for example), while I actually prefer the opposite. Above, I have suggested 1 cup each as this is probably the most versatile starting point. Obviously, you can use whatever proportions suits your fancy, and may even wish to have a couple of different preparations on hand. To experiment, you can try making up a simple and very traditional Japanese Cucumber Salad like the one pictured above and then test whatever versions (either plain or sweetened) that you like…


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Eha #

    As for close to a quarter of a century I yo-yoed twixt Sydney and Tokyo on a regular basis and loved Japanese food [well, Kyoto food favourite by far 🙂 !] I surely have used both but never made either. Not at all difficult – thanks for the recipe and the nudge . . . your mandoline cut cucumbers with their sesame coating look delightful!!

    March 19, 2014
    • ohsohappy #

      Eha, your comment about the mandoline cut cucumbers made me chuckle. As someone who frowns upon kitchen gadgets when a sharp knife and good knife skills will do…I took one look at those cucumbers, sighed, and had the extreme desire to buy a mandoline. Thanks! 😉

      March 19, 2014
      • Eha #

        > ohsohappy ~ Oh, don’t worry, I have a couple and usually use my little kitchen knife: less to wash up and no need to watch your fingers as you get to the end of the piece being cut!! But it DOES look professional, does it not 😉 ?

        March 19, 2014
  2. ohsohappy #

    Yay, I finally have a name for the concoction I marinate my veggies in for sunomono…sanbaizu! Sunomono is my family’s favorite addition to a Salmon Chirashi Rice Bowl. I use cucumbers, carrots, daikon, broccoli al dente, greens onions and cilantro. I look forward to tasting it with the addition of dashi, which most likely contributes to the umami factor nicely.

    March 19, 2014

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