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Mirin

A low alcohol rice wine, mirin is ubiquitous in Japanese cooking. This golden liquid is similar to sake, albeit mellower, sweeter, and less alcoholic.

A low alcohol rice wine, mirin is ubiquitous in Japanese cooking. This golden liquid is similar to sake, albeit mellower, sweeter, and less alcoholic.

To make mirin, a mixture of steamed glutinous rice, koji and shochu are fermented for about two months.  During the fermentation process, the koji breaks down the starch from the glutinous rice into sugar resulting in its unique sweetness.  This type of mirin is known as “Hon Mirin” or true mirin as it has no added sugars and registers at 14% alcohol.  Bottles labeled as just mirin typically use sake rather than shochu.

Another category of mirin is “aji mirin”, which translates to “tastes like mirin”.  Aji mirin is less expensive, contains less alcohol (8-14%) and has added sugar, corn syrup and salt.  If you’re looking for mirin with little to no alcohol content, there’s “mirin-like condiment” sometimes called “kotteri mirin” or “honteri mirin” that contains zero to very little alcohol.

Mirin is a common addition to many Japanese dishes, sauces, and marinades. It adds brightness and a mild tangy sweet taste, along with tenderizing ingredients — a common combination is to mix mirin together with sake and soy sauce, sometimes alongside garlic and ginger. Due to its high sugar content, mirin is also used to give foods a shiny appearance like with teriyaki sauce.

You can find mirin at all Uwajimaya stores.