Mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) is a sweet and syrupy liquid and it is one of the most important condiments in Japanese cooking. It is a kind of rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content (14% instead of 20%).
What is Hon-Mirin?
Hon mirin consists of 40-50% sugar and 14% alcohol. It is made of glutinous rice, cultured rice, and distilled alcoholic beverage. They are mixed and fermented for about 2 months.
What is Mirin-like Condiment?
Mirin-like condiment contains less than 1% alcohol but claims to have the same taste as hon mirin. It is made of starch syrup, rice/cultured rice brewed seasoning, brewed vinegar, acidic components and it’s cheaper because it avoids certain alcohol taxes.
Benefits of Using Mirin
Mirin tenderize and adds a mild sweetness and has deep body and umami. It also helps mask the smell of fish and seafood and helps the flavors to “sink in” to the dish. It also keeps the ingredients from disintegrating because of the sugars and alcohol content. Lastly, mirin adds luster to ingredients which is why it is a key ingredient in teriyaki sauce.
You can purchase mirin in Japanese grocery stores, Asian supermarkets, or Amazon.
Storage: Hon mirin has more alcohol; therefore, you can store it in a cool place. If you store it in the refrigerator, sugar may crystalized. Mirin-fu chomiryo (mirin-like condiment) has much less alcohol; therefore, make sure to store in the refrigerator.
Substitution: Although it won’t be exactly the same, you can substitute mirin with sake and sugar. The ratio of sake and sugar is 3 to 1. For example, mix 3/4 cup (or 1 Tbsp) good quality drinking sake and 1/4 cup (or 1 tsp) granulated sugar. If you cannot use alcohol in your cooking, use water instead of sake.