What is Mirin?
One of the most important condiments in Japanese cooking, Mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) is a sweet and syrupy liquid that is used as a seasoning and glazing agent. It is a type of rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content (14% instead of 20%).
In general, there are 3 types of mirin: hon mirin (“real” mirin, 本みりん), mirin-like condiment (みりん風調味料), and mirin-type condiment (みりんタイプ調味料).
What is Hon-Mirin?
Hon mirin (本みりん) contains 14% alcohol and 0% salt. It is made of glutinous rice, cultured rice, and distilled alcoholic beverage. They are mixed and fermented for about 2 months. It can be stored in a dark cool place. In Japanese grocery stores, they are usually imported and pretty expensive (above, you can see two brands of hon mirin that are about $20 and $14).
Popular Hon Mirin in Japan
- Fuki Hon Mirin (Godo Shusei)
- Fukuraijun Hon Mirin (Hakusen Shuzo) – picture on the right
- Gyokusen Hakuryu Junmai Hon Mirin (Gyokusendo Shuzo)
- Hinode Hon Mirin (King Brewing Co)
- Isshisoden Hon Mirin (Ogasawara Mirin Jozo)
- Kankyo Mirin (Kankyo Shuzo)
- Kokonoe Sakura (Kokonoe Mirin)
- Manjo Hon Mirin (Kikkoman)
- Mikawa Mirin (Sanshu Mikawa Mirin) – picture on the left
- Takara Hon Mirin (Takara)
- Takaraboshi Hon Mirin (Honbo Shuzo)
What is Mirin-like Condiment?
Mirin-like condiment (みりん風調味料) contains less than 1% alcohol and less than 1% salt. It claims to have the same taste as hon mirin. It is made of starch syrup, rice/cultured rice brewed seasoning, brewed vinegar, acidic components. Mirin-like condiment is cheaper because it avoids certain alcohol taxes. It needs to be refrigerated after opening.
What is Mirin-type Condiment?
Mirin-type condiment (みりんタイプ調味料、みりんタイプ醸造調味料) contains 8-14% alcohol and 2 % salt. It’s made of starch syrup, water, alcohol, rice, and salt.
- Manjo Aji-Mirin (Kikkoman)
Benefits of Using Mirin
Mirin tenderizes and adds a mild sweetness to dishes. With a deeper body and umami, it also helps masking the smell of fish and seafood and helps the flavors to “sink in” to the dish better. Because of the sugar and alcohol content, it also keeps the ingredients from disintegrating Lastly, mirin adds luster to ingredients, which is why it is a key ingredient in teriyaki sauce.
You can purchase mirin from Japanese grocery stores, Asian supermarkets, or Amazon.
How To Store Mirin
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.
How To Substitute Mirin
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 with 1/4 cup (or 1 tsp) granulated sugar. If you cannot use alcohol in your cooking, you can use water instead of sake.