About three years ago, that is sometime in 2005, hongcho (red vinegar), heuckcho (black vinegar) or gamsikcho (persimmon vinegar) got very popular in Korea. Those are various kinds of vinegar drinks that are fermented from fruit or grain and watered down so people can drink it easily.
When I heard about this vinegar boom a few months later in America, I thought some Koreans don’t mind eating or drinking weird stuff just to get healthy. It was my typical judgment on that as another Korean living outside of the country. Except the rumor(?) that Chinese circus girls and boys are forced to drink vinegar to perform like rubber, for me, vinegar is always just an ingredient for food, nothing more, nothing less.
But I got interested in this ongoing trend after I saw a TV show about its benefits early this year. Well, I also got more interested in healthy food in general. Here is what I have found out.
- Vinegar, a kind of liquid yielded from fermentation process, is generally believed to have health benefits in a few ways. It is believed to lower cholesterol, soothe stomach ache, improve skin tone, or help lose weight. Historically, people also considered vinegar as a kind of medicine and used it in healing injuries or insect stings. These benefits have not been scientifically proven yet.
However, it is generally accepted that vinegar contains organic acids that speed up metabolism. It also improves appetite and strengthen immune system.
- Vinegar drinks produced in Korea have reinforced these organic acids during natural fermentation process and lowered acid concentration from typical 5~6% to 2~3% to make it easier to drink. Especially vinegars made out of 100% fruit, for example 100% gamsikcho (persimmon vinegar) or 100% goguma hongcho (sweet red potato red vinegar) have more antioxidants as well as plenty of organic acids. Also, Korean-produced honey and more fiber are added to these vinegars for sweeter taste.
So it’s important to check the label and see if it’s 100% fruit or grain vinegar when you buy them. Some of vinegar drinks out there are not fermented long enough and don’t have good quality organic acids.
These days, I try to drink 100% pomegranate vinegar every night. Often times I forget to drink it every night. But it’s okay as it’s not necessarily a cheap drink.
Next time when I go to a Korean market, I’ll look for 100% Korea-produced persimmon vinegar or micho. Persimmon vinegar is supposedly less sweet, hence(?) healthier, I might say. =)
- Hongcho : Literally it means red vinegar. Its main ingredients are reddish or dark fruit or grains such as pomegranates, raspberries, red sweet potatos, blueberries, black beans, or brown rice, all of which have lots of antioxidants. It’s said this has the most strong sour taste of all drinking vinegars sold in Korea.
- Micho: ‘Mi’ in this name means beauty or beautiful. This is also made from fruit and has the softest taste. It’s sweeter than hongcho. More popular among women.
- Gamsikcho: Literally it means persimmon vinegar. Usually they ferment persimmons over a year to produce this kind of vinegar.
How to drink vinegars (gamsikcho or hongcho)
It’s instructed to mix it with water with the ratio of 1:3 (vinegar: water). I’m a little bit conservative, thinking it’s still vinegar. I mix it with water 1:4, sometimes 1:5 when I don’t have any cravings for sour stuff. Because it already contains some honey, it should be easy enough to drink for most people. For me, it almost tastes like juice. Just a little sour, but not bad at all. You can mix it with milk or soy milk for different taste.