7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!

Any Japanese cook will tell you that mirin is one of the essential condiments of Japanese cuisine. Yet this has not always been the case, for mirin was originally a rather exclusive alcoholic beverage, often mixed with shochu (a distilled spirit), and popular especially with the well-heeled ladies of Japanese high society! 

It wasn’t until the Edo period that mirin started to be used in cooking. At that time, the darker, more robust soy sauce of the Kanto area became more popular and, along with mirin, sake and sugar, formed the basis of a new ‘Edo style’ cuisine. There are three types of mirin today: hon mirin, or real mirin, has an alcohol content of 14% and requires a liquor license to sell it; shio mirin, which has added salt and other ingredients that make it unsuitable for drinking; and aji mirin, or mirin seasoning, which is not actually mirin but an alcohol free substitute containing sweeteners, but which tastes the same as real mirin.

In cooking, mirin gives food a mild yet complex sweetness, as well as an attractive sheen to fish, while the alcohol helps to curb any strong smells to meat, poultry or fish. During cooking, most of the alcohol content evaporates, but when used for uncooked dishes, the alcohol should be boiled off first and only the cooled liquid (nikiri mirin) used. The important thing is never to use too much mirin; its flavour is quite strong and too much will spoil the delicate balance of flavours that Japanese cuisine is known for! So here are my seven favourite dishes to which mirin is an integral part:



 

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!

 

1. Kabayaki Sauce

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!kabayaki sauce

A product of that Edo style cuisine I mentioned, unagi, or skewered grilled eel, served on a bowl of rice (donburi) is made all the more delicious by the sweet, rich kabayaki sauce in which it is grilled.

 

2. Mentsuyu

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!mentsuyu

Made from sake, mirin, soy, kombu (edible kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), mentsuyu is a soup used for serving soba and udon noodles. There are two types: kaketsuyu, which makes hot noodle soup, and tsuketsuyu which is for dipping chilled noodles.

 

3. Teriyaki

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!teriyaki

Teriyaki is essentially a glaze for grilled fish and chicken. It is made with mirin, sake, soy, sugar or honey, and sometimes ginger. Teriyaki glazed salmon is a favourite of mine.

 

4. Sukiyaki

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is a nabemono (hot pot) style dish usually cooked at the table. The Kanto style is to add thinly sliced beef, vegetables, mushrooms and tofu to a broth of mirin, sake, soy, sugar and dashi (Japanese stock), all of which is then simmered together. Raw beaten egg is sometimes used as s dip to accompany sukiyaki.

 

5. Mirin Boshi

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!mirin boshi

This is a marinade for grilled fish, typically mackerel, made with mirin, soy, ginger, salt and sesame seeds. The skewered fish is allowed to rest for 2 to 3 days before it is grilled. There is no better way to enjoy the subtle sweetness of mirin!

 

6. Sushi Su

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!sushi su

Sushi su is the seasoned vinegar used to flavour sushi rice (sumeshi) and is typically made with rice wine vinegar, sugar and nikiri mirin, then gently folded into cooked rice.

 

7. Aemono

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!aemono

Aemono, Japanese salad dishes, are often dressed with a mixture of nikiri mirin, soy, vinegar, sugar and dashi. Sometimes mustard seeds or kinome, the minty, aromatic leaves of the prickly ash tree, are added.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, mirin is an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine and you should definitely add it to your kitchen inventory if you are keen on creating Japanese dishes. And whether you buy hon mirin or the far cheaper mirin seasoning, the depth of flavour it adds to your repertoire will be appreciated by all who sit at your table. But don’t forget, none at all is preferable to too much, so read any recipes you find very carefully. Happy eating!

 

7 Recommended Ways to Cook with Mirin!

1. Kabayaki Sauce
2. Mentsuyu
3. Teriyaki
4. Sukiyaki
5. Mirin Boshi
6. Sushi Su
7. Aemono