Trade Secret: Black Magic

By Leah Mennies | Boston Magazine |

WHEN KAREN AKUNOWICZ took over the kitchen at Asian eatery Myers + Chang, she knew she’d be cooking with a different flavor palette than the one that influenced her Mediterranean-style dishes at Via Matta and Oleana. But she had no idea how quickly she’d come to rely on a new ingredient: black vinegar. “The best Chinese black vinegars are produced in the province of Zhenjiang,” she says, “and lend a sweet, many-layered, almost smoky flavor.” The vinegar is her go-to for enhancing meat marinades, brightening hot-and-sour soup, and rounding out the fermented black bean vinaigrette atop her tea-smoked duck salad. “It’s my crush,” the chef says. “It picks up some of the same notes that balsamic vinegar picks up. It gives things a depth of flavor that you wouldn’t get from rice wine vinegar.” Want to try it at home? Grab a bottle at Asian markets like Ming’s in the South End or Hong Kong Supermarket in Allston, and try drizzling it over veggies or using it to perk up roast pork.

Photo by Spencer Jones