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Mirin is a Japanese rice wine used in cooking to add a sweet and umami flavor to dishes. It is similar to sake, but it has a lower alcohol content and a higher sugar content.

Mirin is made by fermenting glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice) with koji, a type of fungus. The fermentation process breaks down the starch in the rice into sugar, which gives mirin its characteristic sweetness.

Mirin's journey began centuries ago, not as a culinary star, but as a sweet sake enjoyed for its own sake (pun intended!). It wasn't until the mid-Edo period (1603-1868) that it transitioned into the kitchen realm, adding its magic to Japanese dishes.

When is Mirin in season?


How to store Mirin?

When buying mirin, prioritize a short ingredient list of rice, koji mold, and shochu if you desire the true hon-mirin experience. If you avoid alcohol, choose ajo-mirin (meaning "tastes like mirin"). It offers a similar flavor profile while being completely alcohol-free.

Mirin can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. After opening, it is best to refrigerate mirin to extend its shelf life. Refrigerated mirin will last for up to 1 year.

If Mirin has gone bad, you’ll notice a strong off-putting smell and a change in texture and color.

What to make with leftover Mirin?

Mirin's natural sugars and mild acidity make it a gentle yet effective cleaning agent. Diluted with water and spritzed onto surfaces, it can tackle dust, grime, and even sticky residues like dried syrup.

While Mirin's alcohol content is too low for traditional cocktails, it can add an intriguing umami twist to your mixology adventures. Try adding a small splash to sake-based cocktails, or experiment with it in tiki drinks for a touch of unexpected depth.

Mirin can also be used to deglaze a pan so next time you have some food stuck onto your pan, pour a splash of Mirin into the pan and cook on medium heat until the liquid has reduced and thickened. You can just use that thickened liquid as a sauce to drizzle over your meat.

Food Science

Mirin is one of the oldest known condiments in Japan, and it is thought to have originated in the Heian period (794-1185).

Mirin's secret weapon lies in its richness in umami, the savory fifth taste. This depth of flavor comes from glutamic acid, naturally produced during fermentation, and elevates the taste of everything it touches.

The sugars in mirin aren't just for sweetness; they act as natural humectants, attracting and retaining moisture. This is why dishes glazed with mirin have a beautiful, glossy finish, making them not just delicious but visually appealing as well.

Cooking tips for Mirin

Mirin is a great tenderizer and a good way to use it is for tenderizing meat in a marinade.

Its sweetness can be potent. Add it gradually, tasting as you go, to avoid overpowering your dish. A tablespoon or two usually does the trick.

Mirin's sweetness can be used to counterbalance salty or acidic flavors in your dish. Add a splash to broths, soups, or stir-fries to create a harmonious flavor profile.

What are the health benefits of Mirin?

Mirin is rich in antioxidants, particularly the phenolic acids and ferulic acid. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's.

Traditional mirin undergoes a longer fermentation process, leading to the presence of enzymes like amylase and protease. These enzymes can aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins, potentially improving digestion and gut health.

Mirin is still an alcoholic beverage and should be consumed in moderation to avoid exceeding the daily recommended intake.

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