Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

What is Mirin?

A great Japanese condiment

Japanese cuisine is filled with a multitude of ingredients that add flavour to dishes. One of these condiments that stands out as an absolute must have item for anyone interested in Japanese cooking is mirin. With mirin, you can turn a simple dish into something better and for some dishes like teriyaki chicken, you really just canft do without it. Letfs have a look at mirin and all we need to know about it.


Mirin is very often added to dishes to strike a balance between all the flavours and soften the dish. It is often used in stewed dishes such as chashu which is a kind of soft pork that has been slowly boiled for a long period and simmered dishes such as oyakodon, which is a mixture of chicken and egg served on rice. A good example of using mirin effectively is good old teriyaki chicken, teriyaki sauce is made from mixing, soy sauce, sugar and mirin together and the inclusion of mirin in this softens the strong tasting soy sauce sufficiently to create a mild flavour. Generally, we can buy mirin as either a factory made mirin that has been mass produced and does the trick and the preferred option of mirin made in smaller batches to give an authentic flavour. When using mirin in a dish that requires just a little or mirin that will be consumed without heating then itfs preferable to use the best mirin where possible. If, on the other hand, you needed a large amount of mirin then itfs definitely preferable just to use the cheaper version that will suffice.


The great thing about mirin is that is really helps to accentuate the others flavours of a dish. Letfs say we had a recipe that asked for some sugar to be added, then this will of course add sweetness to the dish, with mirin however, it will not only add sweetness but also it will help to bring out the other flavours around it. Mirin has a strong and distinct flavour, so itfs certainly recommended to just use a little bit but in this case a little is a lot!


I certainly recommend using mirin with seafood. Mirin is particularly effective when it is lightly brushed over seafood before grilling. Not only does it improve the taste but it actually helps to reduce any fishy smells that the seafood may have, this makes mirin perfect to add into a marinade. Wherever alcohol is asked for in a recipe, itfs certainly fine to replace it with mirin and depending on the dish it can really make a difference.

Mirin types

Mirin is a form of rice wine like nihonshu. The key difference is that there is slightly less alcohol and this is replaced with more sugar, making it quite good for cooking. True mirin known as hon mirin, has about 14% alcohol and is made using a fermentation process like all wines and it takes about sixty days to make. The second type of mirin is known as shio mirin which contains some alcohol but also salt. The last type is shin mirin which has just a little alcohol in it. The mirin variations of true mirin are usually made as a way of bringing down the price of the finished product. Any Japanese food that contains alcohol is taxed based on the proportion of alcohol, this means that mirin with less alcohol doesnft have to pay as much tax. These forms are still good and usually retain mirin flavours, but are not as good as true mirin. In some areas, mirin is actually made with shochu giving is a distinctive sweet taste.


There are two types of mirin. One is the epure mirinf, and the other is the emirin-flavoured seasoningf. The biggest difference between these two is that one contains alcohol while the other one does not. Because of the Liquor Tax Law, pure mirin is taxed on its alcohol content; therefore, a product that was made without alcohol in order to avoid taxation is the mirin flavoured seasoning. Apart from being taxed, the pure mirin which is categorized as alcohol needs to meet many regulations such as requiring a licence to sell etc, but because it is alcohol, it contains many effective properties as a cooking element. Alcohol holds properties such as preserving the shape of ingredients when cooking or infiltrating the delicious flavour components into the ingredients. The emirin flavoured seasoningf is therefore more cost effective as liquor tax does not apply.


You will likely come across some that are labelled epure mirinf and some that are labelled emirin-flavoured seasoningf when you go to purchase mirin from the shops. I would take this as an opportunity to purchase the epure mirinf which tastes better and is used as an authentic mirin. The aromatic flavour it creates when cooking is completely between ones with alcohol and ones without. However, unless you are a real connoisseur, there should not be too big of a difference in the flavour with the emirin-flavoured seasoningf, so this should certainly suffice. Why not buy both of them and take this as an opportunity to enjoy tasting them both.


Now we know that pure mirin contains alcohol, and there may be some people who may ask the question eIs it OK to use in cooking for children?h. The straight answer is yes, itfs ok. Because mirin is a cooking seasoning, it is used on the premise that it will be heated up (* caution: it cannot be used as a dressing). Therefore, the alcohol will evaporate when you use it for cooking stews etc where you put enough heat through. It is the same with Teriyaki Chicken; the alcohol would have been evaporated by the time the chicken is thoroughly cooked. It is good to remember that this is a cooking seasoning for cuisine that requires some sound heating time. There is a type of Japanese cuisine called eae-monof which is a type of dish where chopped fish or vegetables are dressed with some sauce, and mirin is used for this. When using mirin for this type of cuisine, you need to cook the mirin so that the alcohol is evaporated before you pour it over as a sauce.


Mirin is a fantastic Japanese ingredient to have in the kitchen. With mirin, many dishes can be improved so why not get some!