Extreme Cuisine – Mirin

By / Food / September 12th, 2011 / Like

Mirin is sweet rice wine. A combination of sweet, glutinous rice, rice yeast, and shochu (a distilled alcohol) is fermented for two months before being altered according to a particular style. Hon mirin is the pure, natural form as it comes out of the fermentation tanks. Shio mirin has had a small amount of salt added to it, and shin mirin has the lowest alcohol content. Here’s the caveat: there’s a lot of discussion regarding which of the three is the best for cooking. Some say hon mirin is because it remains in its truest form (despite dealing with an alcohol content of 14%). Others argue that shin mirin is best because you don’t have to worry about cooking off the alcohol properly. It has just 1% alcohol. Ultimately, your taste buds will decide the case because all three mirin taste differently. The only advice I have is to read the label. Some mirin contain a whole list of additives, corn syrup and who knows what else. I’d probably want to stick to one with the most natural (and shortest) ingredient list.

Depending on where in the country you happen to live, you might have to put on your detective’s cap to find mirin. Given its alcohol content, some liquor stores may actually carry it alongside their stock of Sake. Asian food stores will be your best bet because it’s a staple of Japanese cuisine. But larger supermarkets typically carry it as well. Fun fact: mirin lends its distinctive flavour to teriyaki sauce. Look for liquid that is gold and transparent. There are a number of Japanese companies that produce it. Experiment to see which one you prefer.

Although most commonly used in Japanese cuisine, mirin gives sauces a slightly sweet taste and silky appearance. Try using it whenever you’d like to add a little sweetness and sleekness. It would add a really nice touch to vegetable soup or even chili. Where dessert recipes call for a bit of sugar and wine, try using miring. A classic dessert calling for those two ingredients in particular is poached pears. Don’t replace all of the wine typically used in the recipe, but adding a tablespoon or two would a certain underlying flavour to the dish that will keep your guests guessing.

Give this one a try, too.

Mackerel Cooked in Miso
Adapted from Everyday Harumi, Harumi Kuihara. Superfine sugar goes by other names as well: castor sugar, fruit sugar, extrafine sugar or instant dissolving sugar. The advantage to it is that it’s, as its name suggests, quick dissolving. If you don’t have it, or can’t get it, regular white sugar or brown sugar will do.

Serves 2

8 oz fresh mackerel fillets, with skin
1-1/4 oz fresh ginger
1 cup sake
3 Tbsp miso
3 Tbsp superfine sugar
1/4 cup miring
1/4 cup soy sauce

1. Cut mackerel into 4 pieces. Peel and thinly slice ginger.
2. Combine sake, miso, sugar, miring and soy sauce in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Place the mackerel pieces in a single layer in the liquid and add the ginger.
4. When the sauce comes to a boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a chilled glass of sparkling rosé or a cold beer.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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