Mirin is a sweet cooking rice wine used mainly in Japanese cooking and this is the secret for making delicious Japanese dishes. Let’s learn all about Mirin and build your Japanese cooking skills!
What is Mirin?
Mirin is a sweet cooking rice wine brewed from glutinous rice, rice koji, and alcohol. It is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cooking. Similar to sake, it contains rice wine, however, it has more sugar and less alcohol.
It used to be served as an expensive type of sake. If you tried drinking it without knowing it’s mirin, you might think it is just a sweet sake instead of mirin.
The more you cook Japanese dishes, the more you might realize “Mirin definitely improves this dish”. It will add an elegant and sweet flavor to your food!
Difference Between Mirin and Sake
Let’s explain the difference between sake and mirin.
- Mirin has a higher sugar content and lower alcohol
- Makes foods sweeter
- Add beautiful shine and gloss
- Sake contains higher alcohol and lower sugar
- Makes foods softer
- Erases foods odor
Three Types of Mirin
There are three types of mirin which are hon 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).
- Mirin-fu seasoning (みりん風調味料)
- Mirin type seasoning(みりんタイプ調味料)
Each of them have different features!
Hon-mirin has 14% alcohol and is categorized as alcohol. You can only purchase it at liquor store.
2. Mirin-fu seasoning (みりん風調味料)
This is sold as “Aji Mirin” and contains less than 1% alcohol with more sugars and flavors. You’ll find it everywhere and it is cheaper than hon-mirin! Because this type doesn’t have much alcohol, you don’t need to make sure the alcohol evaporates while cooking.
3. Mirin type seasoning (みりんタイプ（発酵調味料）)
This type is made in the same way as hon-mirin and contains about 8-14% alcohol. However, it is categorized as a seasoning not an alcohol like hon-mirin. The reason it’s not alcohol is because it contains so much salt. So when you use this type, make sure to use less salt than normal when seasoning. I personally recommend this type because it’s similar to hon-mirin but easier to find in stores.
Why do I need to use Mirin?
There are 3 merits to using mirin!
1. Adds a mild sweetness to dishes
It brings a mild sweetness to dishes. This subtle sweetness and richness can only come from mirin and you can’t replace it with sugar.
2. Add beautiful shine and gloss
Mirin also adds a beautiful shine and glossiness to dishes. This is because it contains sugar.
3. Prevents foods from breaking apart
Mirin prevents foods from breaking apart while cooking or simmering. So food is beautifully done and will look perfect when serving.
How to Use Mirin?
Do you know the “Sa-Shi-Su-Se-So order” of Japanese cooking? This is the order you use when adding Japanese ingredients.
- Sa : Sugar, Sake and Mirin
- Shi : Salt
- Su : Vinegar
- Se : Soy sauce
- So : Miso
Because mirin contains alcohol, it needs to be added early in the cooking process. However, mirin style seasoning (Aji-mirin) doesn’t contain alcohol so it is instead added at the end of cooking.
Where Can I Buy Mirin?
You can buy mirin at any Japanese/Asian grocery stores. You’ll usually have no problem to find it at Japanese/Asian grocery stores but Amazon has some mirin options too! When you purchase mirin, be sure you understand which kind of mirin you’re buying.
Kikkoman is a well known brand but Takara and Morita are also good.
What is a Substitute for Mirin?
When you don’t have mirin, you have some options for other ingredients you can use as a substitute.(※It won’t be exactly perfect but close).
- Sake 3 : Sugar 1
- Water 3 : Sugar 1
- Chicken broth 3: Sugar 1
- Honteri Mirin by Mizkan (it contains no alcohol)
How to Store Mirin?
You can store mirin in the refrigerator and use it within 3 months. I recommend writing down the date once you open the container.
Japanese Recipes Using Mirin
Here are some Japanese recipes that use mirin!
- Gyudon Recipe ( 牛丼 – Japanese beef bowl)
- Nikujaga ( 肉じゃが – Japanese Beef and Potato soup)
- Agedashi Dofu (揚げ出し豆腐 – Japanese Deep Fried Tofu)
- Yaki Onigiri ( 焼きおにぎり – Grilled Rice Ball )