What Is Mirin?: A Magical Flavorful Asian Condiment
Into cooking, and want to add a tangy and mild sweet flavor to your dishes? Searching for condiments that will add more zest and flavors to your cooking? Then, you might want to infuse a dose of mirin to your cooking!
Although it’s not a household name, it’s surely a terrific flavoring that should be on your kitchen and condiment cupboard. A slightly tangy and subtly sweet rice wine, this syrupy-textured Asian relish is the key ingredient to mouthwatering homemade Japanese food recipes, like stir-frys, teriyaki and a whole lot more.
Trust me, you’re missing out on a one-of-a-kind condiment, if you don’t have a bottle of mirin wine in your pantry.
Intrigued and interested to know more about it? Ever checked the ingredient list of teriyaki or ramen and wondered “what is mirin”? Luckily for you, we’ve got nuggets of information about this popular Japanese cuisine seasoning.
And, as you infuse it to your cooking, you’re unlocking a treasure trove of glazes, marinades, broths and dipping sauces to use in a variety of recipes.
From stir-fried udon and shoyu ramen to tuna poke, there are countless of delectable and flavorful recipes you can make with this Japanese food condiment.
What is mirin?
Authentic Japanese sauces have a unique, subtle and rich tang that you can’t seem to find in other cuisines. A typical teriyaki sauce, for instance, has a hint of wondrous delicate sweetness that makes it extraordinary and so irresistible.
And, at first, you might think that a spoonful of sugar is responsible for creating this subtle sweet kick and mild acidity. But, guess what? This tanginess, actually, comes from a rice wine variety. To be specific, it comes from mirin.
The thing is, you may have savored its pleasant flavor in many tasty quintessential Asian dishes.
After all, it’s undoubtedly one of the most essential ingredients in Japan food and cooking. For some chefs and culinary experience, they see this liquid seasoning as Japan’s version of white cooking wine.
Heck, it can easily and instantly transform any bland sauce into something pretty flavorful.
Normally, mirin is used as an alternative to sugar, thanks to its light sweetness. Furthermore, it’s added to Japanese food and dishes that are cooked perfectly and allowed to simmer. Surprisingly, it can be used to create an appetizing finish or glaze to Japanese food like teriyaki.
In essence, mirin is a rice wine variety, meaning it’s pretty similar to the famous sake. But, compared to sake, it has a higher sugar content and slightly lower alcohol content.
The process of making this Japanese food condiment starts by blending Aspergillus oryzae or koji in Japanese (steamed sticky rice that has turned into a mold) with shochu (distilled Japanese spirits).
Then, it’s fermented for about 40 to 60 days. After the fermentation process, a sweet liquid condiment with an alcohol content of 14 percent is produced.
History of mirin
Originally, mirin wine was consumed as a delightful sweet alcoholic beverage mainly by women as well as folks who are sensitive to strong alcohol flavors. At the tail-end of the Edo period (around 1603 to 1868), it was used to add flavor to a variety of Japanese food, such as soba noodle dipping sauces, grilled eel marinades.
But, since it was pretty expensive, this seasoning was just limited to classy restaurants and the wealthy. But, in the 1950s, it became more prevalent across Japan due to the huge plunge in food taxes. Today, it is one of the essential flavorings in Japanese food and cooking.
Types of mirin
There are three main types of mirin. First one is the hon mirin, or also referred as true mirin. Produced by a mashing process of 40 to 60 days, this type contains around 14 percent of alcohol.
The second one is shio mirin, which has lower alcohol content (1.5 percent).
The third type is shin mirin, or also called new mirin. Nicknamed as mirin-like seasoning, this variety has less than 1 percent of alcohol, and yet it retains the same taste.
And, there’s also the aji mirin. In English, it translates roughly to “tastes like mirin”. Even though it doesn’t have alcohol, it’s seemingly enhanced with corn syrup or other added sweeteners.
Mirin VS rice vinegar
Let’s make things clear. This Japanese food condiment is not a form of rice vinegar. Sure, these Japanese food products both come from fermented rice, but they are completely different. And, while they both are used to enhance flavor, they are, by no means, interchangeable. So, it’s essential to know how to use them properly, and which condiment should be used for a specific cooking task.
Effects and features of mirin
Planning on adding this condiment to your cooking arsenal? From glazing to creating a pleasant aroma, mirin has a variety of uses and effects, when it comes to Japanese food and cooking. And, with a little creativity, it can be even use to prepare non-Japanese dishes.
Here’s how this Japanese food flavoring can spice up your cooking.
Subtle sweet flavor
As we’ve mentioned above, this liquid flavoring is commonly used as a sugar alternative. That’s because it gives a mellower sweet tang, creating a more sophisticated flavor for a marinade or sauce.
Mirin’s culinary uses
Mirin makes an excellent and savory finish to miso soup and other Japanese soups. Of course, it’s also a main ingredient of the authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce. And, with its natural sweet and savory kick, it works perfectly well with salty condiments like soy sauce and tamari.
Need some tips on how to use mirin? Why not check out these culinary suggestions!
- - Blend it with wasabi and soy sauce, to create a rich sushi dipping sauce.
- - Mix apple cider with mirin, and use it as a glaze for sweet baked ham.
- - Drop a small dose of it before serving chicken soup, to make it more flavorful.
- - Add a dose to your shrimp and chicken stir-fry two minutes before removing them off the stove. Then, infuse a little soy sauce to balance out the condiment’s sweetness.
- - Combine it with 5-spice powder, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon as well as salt and paper, to create a delectable barbecue sauce.
- - Pan-fry breaded chicken. Afterward use soy sauce and mirin to deglaze its skillet, so you can create a pan sauce.
- - Drizzle a drop of it, a pinch of smoked paprika and toasted sesame oil over hummus. Serve it with pita chips or roasted carrots.
- - Crab and other kinds of shellfish are usually steamed with water. In some cases, chefs add drops of white cooking wine to it, to make it more flavorful. So, why not be a bit creative by adding mirin to the steamed food instead of white cooking wine. Add this Japanese relish to the steam food for a subtle sweet kick. Alternatively, you can complement it with other ingredients, like soy sauce, ginger or lime.
More mirin food recipes
Short ribs with egg noodles and shiitakes
- - 1 cup of mirin
- - ¼ cup of soy sauce
- - ¼ cup of water
- - 1 tbsp of cornstarch
- - 2 thinly sliced and cored, red bell peppers
- - 1 thinly sliced, yellow medium onion
- - 7 thinly sliced, shiitake mushrooms (discarded stems)
- - 2 tbsp of toasted, divided sesame oil
- - A pound of wide egg noodles
- - Ground black pepper and salt
- - 2 minced cloves garlic
- - 1 and ½ pounds of thinly sliced short boneless ribs
- - In a zip-close plastic bag or large bowl, mix ½ teaspoon of pepper with salt (1 teaspoon), garlic, mirin and sliced steak.
- - Refrigerate the whole mixture for at least an hour.
- - Boil some salt water using a big saucepan. Put the egg noodles to the saucepan, and cook it according to the package directions. Once done, drain it, and set it aside, in the meantime.
- - Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil using a big skillet (medium high). Remove the slice steak from the mixture while preserving the marinade, and add it to the skillet.
- - Cook it, until its half cooked (about 5 minutes).
- - Move the meat to a clean plate, and set it aside. Add peppers, onion and mushrooms to the skillet and heat it. Saute it, until it begins to turn brown.
- - Put the meat back to the skillet. Then, add all the preserved marinated mixture. Simmer it, and cook it for around 5 minutes.
- - Using a small glass, blend water with cornstarch.
- - Add some soy sauce to the current skillet.
- - Stir it pretty well, and simmer it for a couple of minutes (or when it thickens).
- - Season it with some salt and pepper.
- - Kosher Salt
- - 4 boneless, skin-on salmon fillets (1-inch think and 6 ounces each)
- - 1 tbsp of vegetable oil or more
- - ¼ cup of soy sauce
- - ¼ cup of mirin
- - ½ cup of sake
- - Combine soy sauce, mirin and sake in a small bowl, and set it aside.
- - Season the salmon lightly with a pinch of salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil using a big skillet (medium-high).
- - Cook it, until the salmon’s skin turns crisp and brown (about 4 minutes). If needed, add more oil to it. When it starts to turn brown, turn the other side.
- - Transfer the salmon to a clean plate.
- - Pour off some fat in skillet. Boil the teriyaki sauce over medium heat in the skillet. Cook it, for about 4 minutes or when it reduces by two-thirds.
- - Add salmon and cook, until the sauce is quite syrupy.
- - Transfer it to the platter and serve with a simple salad, noodles or white rice.
- - 2 chopped scallions
- - 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- - 2 tablespoons of mirin
- - 2 tablespoons of sake
- - 8 ounces of ground beef chuck with 20 percent fat
- - 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
- - In a medium-sized skillet, heat oil (medium-high).
- - Cook beef for about 3 minutes (or when it turns brown), stirring as well as breaking it into small pieces.
- - Add sake, and cook it evaporates (around 1 minute).
- - Add soy sauce and mirin, and keep cooking it, until the pan is almost dry.
- - Put scallions and toss it to combine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to buy mirin?
Authentic and high-quality mirin products are available at Asian and Japanese specialty stores. Oftentimes, you can find them at groceries with Asian sections or aisle where the teriyaki, tamari and soy sauces are stocked. But, keep in mind that some of them may not be really authentic.
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How long does it last?
Stash it in a dark, cool cabinet or in the fridge, for up to 6 months.
What does it taste like?
This well-known Japanese condiment is naturally and delicately sweet. Furthermore, it has some mild acidity that will definitely enhance the flavor of any type of food.
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