Mirin is Japanese sweet cooking wine. Steamed mochigome rice, komekoji (rice yeast), and shochu (Japanese liquor) are mixed and and fermented to make mirin. Mirin is clear and light gold in color and is usually sold in a bottle.
Characterized by a sweet taste and a low alcohol content, mirin is a popular Japanese cooking wine. While use in cooking is far and away the most common application of mirin, the wine is sometimes employed as a ceremonial drink at the beginning of the new year and a few other special occasions. The main benefit of mirin is the dash of sweetness that the alcohol provides for a number of dishes and sauces that are common to Japanese cuisine.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
In Desserts: Mirin is a delicious addition to such desserts as poached pears, fruit cakes, tea cakes, and glazes.
In Dips: Dips for tempura and other deep-fried foods, such as mochi, almost always include mirin.
As a Liqueur: Here is where the value of mirin made with traditional ingredients and unhurried, natural aging is most obvious. While other mirins and mirin-like seasonings are unable to be drunk, authentic mirin is delicious. Serve mirin chilled on ice or at room temperature, depending on the season. Enjoy it plain or with a little lime juice added. In Japan, mirin is sometimes served with ginger and hot water in the winter; it is also combined with certain herbs to make a delicious medicinal tonic called o-toso.
In Marinades: Sake or other wines act as tenderizers and are preferred for marinating fish and poultry. Mirin, on the other hand, makes food more firm and helps it maintain its texture and shape. Mirin marinade is best used with such tender foods as tofu; however, it is occasionally added in small amounts to fresh fish in order to help tone down the strong taste and aroma.
In Noodle Broths: Mirin is the "secret" ingredient that lends a characteristic flavor to noodle broths and dips. Without mirin, these dishes tend to be flat.
In Sauces and Gravies: A tablespoon of mirin can transform a ho-hum sauce into a rich, gourmet delight.
In Sushi: Before sugar became cheap and widely available, mirin was used along with salt and rice vinegar to season sushi rice. Mirin makes the rice soft yet firm and gives the grain a desirable glossy appearance.