Rice Vinegar - Chinese rice vinegars are milder and less acidic than regular vinegar (as are Japanese vinegars). There are three basic types – black, red and white – as well as sweetened black vinegars. The black variety is somewhat similar to balsamic vinegar, while red vinegar has a sweet, yet tart taste. White vinegar’s acidity and flavor is the closest to regular vinegar. There are no hard and fast rules, but black vinegar is generally recommended for braised dishes and as a dipping sauce, red vinegar is best for soups, noodle and seafood dishes, and white vinegar is for sweet and sour dishes and for pickling.
In recipes, rice vinegar is sometimes called "rice wine vinegar."
Rice Wine - Known colloquially as "yellow wine," rice wine is a richly flavored liquid with a relatively low alcohol content that is made from fermented glutinous rice or millet. Aged for ten years or more, rice wine is used both in drinking and cooking. Since ancient times, the best and most famous rice wines have come from Shaoxing in China’s Zheijang province. (If you can't find ‘rice wine’ listed in the ingredients section of a Chinese cookbook, try checking under "S"). Rice wine can be found at Asian markets. Steer clear of the ones marked "cooking rice liquor" or "wine for cooking," as these do not have the sweet taste of authentic rice wine. If you need a substitute, pale dry sherry is acceptable, and preferable to either sake (Japanese rice wine) or any other cooking wines.
At home, store the rice wine at room temperature, preferably out of the light.
Go back to the Asian Culinary Dictionary, an ever-growing index of Asian ingredients and cooking terms, from Abalone to Wood Ears.