Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Mirin is all about getting sauced.
Because that’s where Japanese cooking wine really shines — in sauces.
But first, a misconception. The wretched American product known as “cooking wine” probably has you reluctant to try anything similar. Relax and prepare for a delicious discovery. Mirin is nothing like that.
Though once sipped similar to sake, today mirin is exclusively a cooking wine. The clear, viscous liquid has a clean, yet intensely sweet-salty flavor. And while it packs a solid 12 to 14 percent alcohol, it’s really the sugar that counts. Mirin often is as much as 45 percent sugar.
That sugar explains why mirin works so wonderfully in marinades, glazes and sauces. It tenderizes meats, thickens sauces and creates a wonderful glaze.
And chances are you’ve tried it before, though you probably didn’t realize it. Mirin is a key ingredient in traditional teriyaki sauce and often is used as a finishing touch for Japanese soups.
Though often inaccurately called rice wine, mirin is made in part from rice. Rice, koji (think good bacteria in yogurt) and a distilled version of sake are combined and held for two months.
During this time, the koji converts the starch in the rice into sugar. A lot of it. The solids then are strained and the resulting liquid is the mirin.
Mirin is widely available in the Asian or international aisle of just about any grocer. Some mass produced versions are made from grain alcohol and sugar, so check labels before buying.
Mirin-marinated Short Ribs with Shiitakes and Egg Noodles
Start to finish: 20 minutes active (plus 1 hour marinating)
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 1,000 calories; 260 calories from fat (26 percent of total calories); 29 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 215 mg cholesterol; 118 g carbohydrate; 53 g protein; 6 g fiber; 1940 mg sodium.