Mirin is a sweet rice wine used in Japanese dishes,  and is used to give a unique sweet flavor and a shiny glaze (such as when it is used in teriyaki). It is much easier to find than cooking sake, and should be available in almost all Asian sections of any local grocery store. Those people who do a lot of Japanese cooking opt for the big 1-liter bottle of Kikkoman Aji-Mirin, but smaller 10oz bottles are available.

The sugar content is a complex carbohydrate that forms naturally during the fermentation process; no sugars are added. The alcohol content is further lowered when the liquid is heated.

If you don’t drink alcohol (you should!) all of the alcohol evaporates in cooking  so no inebriation risk with mirin or cooking sake. If you are a member on any other religion that does no allow cooking with alcohol, you can substitute a little honey to provide the sweetness.


Cooking with Mirin

In Japanese cuisine, Mirin is commonly used in simmered (Oyakodon) and stewed (Chashu) dishes. It is generally at any time you want to balance out the sour soya sauce or miso based dishes. You can also make a teriyaki sauce by mixing Mirin with sugar and soya sauce. Mirin may also added to vinegar in  sushi rice and sesame salad dressing.

Mirin has a great many more uses than as a mere seasoning for sushi rice though! Known as the “left hand” of Japanese cooking, Mirin Rice Cooking Wine is an essential component of;

  • Dashi stock
  • Noodle broths & soups
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Countless marinades.

Japanese mirinIt can also be used as a marinade in its own right when paired with the “right hand” of Japanese cooking – shoyu (Soy Sauce). Free from fat and cholesterol,  Mirin is a sweet, guilty pleasure you’ll find no end of uses for!

There are three general types of mirin:

  1. The first is hon mirin (literally: true mirin) which contains approximately 14% alcohol and is produced by a forty- to sixty-day mashing (saccharification) process.
  2. The second is shio mirin, which contains alcohol as low as 1.5% to avoid alcohol tax.
  3. The third is shin mirin (new mirin) or mirin-fu chomiryo (mirin-like seasoning) which contains less than 1% alcohol yet retains the same flavor.

In the Edo period, mirin was consumed as Amazake. Otoso, traditionally consumed on Shogatsu, can be made by soaking a spice mixture in mirin.

In the Kansai style of cooking, mirin is briefly boiled before using, to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate, while in the Kant? regional style, the mirin is used untreated. Kansai-style boiled mirin is called nikiri mirin (thoroughly boiled mirin).

At left, a bottle of commercially produced Japanese mirin.

Mirin is used to add a bright touch to grilled (broiled) fish or to erase the fishy smell. A small amount is often used instead of sugar and soy sauce. It should not be used in excess, however, as its flavor is quite strong. It is sometimes used to accompany sushi. Mirin is used in teriyaki sauce