CULTUREEYES & EDGE

GENKI-SU: JAPANESE DRINKING VINEGAR

CULTUREEYES & EDGE
GENKI-SU: JAPANESE DRINKING VINEGAR
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Every day while growing up in Okinawa, Japan, Takako Shinjo drank her fix of vinegar.Made from coconuts and infused with fruit or herbs, the vinegar was traditionally believed to have health benefits. Samurai warriors once mixed it with water to fight fatigue. In modern day Japan, nearly three-quarters of the population drinks this kind of vinegar, which has half the acidity of cooking vinegar.Last winter, Shinjo teamed up with business partner Judy Tan to introduce her mother's vinegar recipe to Portland. The Genki-Su: Japanese Drinking Vinegar beverage is now sold in Uwajimaya, Tea Chai Te, Food Front Northwest and a few other spots.Tan laughs when she remembers the first time they met. Last year, the two discovered they worked out at the same gym, the 24 Hour Fitness in the Pearl District."We had both been taking kickboxing," Tan said. "I always saw her, this girl who was really fit in the corner. One day we started talking, and then we just hit it off."Shinjo invited Tan to try her homemade drinking vinegar. Tan became a big fan."I've had it at Pok Pok, but tasting her recipe, it was incomparable," Tan said. "It was really natural, really fresh."Drinking Japanese vinegar has been linked to weight loss, easing muscle pain and balancing blood glucose levels, Tan said. In Japan, the drink has become so popular that people buy shots of vinegar -- like espresso -- at street stands.Both women also work on other part-time ventures. Tan, a graphic designer who used to work for Nike and Columbia Sportswear, runs tanQ, a T-shirt company that designs one T-shirt a month for a good cause and donates the proceeds to a nonprofit. Shinjo has a printing business with her husband.The two realized they could pair their skills to start Genki-Su. They eventually raised $14,450 through a Kickstarter campaign and developed flavors such as yuzu-kumquat, nashi (Asian pear), ginger-honey and shiso (a Japanese mint).Tan said the best way to consumer drinking vinegar is by diluting it with sparkling water, tea or juice. Even when mixed with something else, the drinking vinegar has a tangy, bold bite, especially if you're not accustomed to sour flavors. The aftertaste, however, is crisp and lends a refreshing balance.Despite its curious name, Genki-Su is definitely worth trying, at least for its cultural and health value."People have a preconception of what vinegar is, like ew why would you drink vinegar," Tan said. "But it's not what you think it is."Written By: Dominique Fong//