Ah sushi soldiers, just how well do you know your Japanese food? Do you know the secret ingredients to a great tasting meal? You may think you do but in these next few blogs I’m going to introduce you to a range of ingredients that will take your cuisine to the next level.
In this issue I’m going to focus on Mirin, most of you may have heard and used Mirin in your dishes before but despite the fact that it is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cuisine it is also one of the least understood outside of Japan itself.
Mirin is often described as a kind of sweet cooking sake, this is significantly wrong. Although it is alcoholic and made form rice and ‘Kojikin*’ mould, it differs notably from sake and it is important that you do not substitute one for the other.
Mirin is made using ‘Mochigome*’ which is steamed before being mixed with the ‘Kojikin*’ mould and the Japanese spirit ‘Shochu*’, which itself can be made from rice, grain or potatoes. When mixed together, the enzymes in the ‘Kojikin*’ convert the starch into sugars while proteins are broken down into their constituent amino acids. The mixture is then left for up to sixty days, by this time it should have become sweet and syrupy. So there you have it, the traditional way of making ‘Real Mirin’. But what next?
Well, Mirin has a number of uses and is an essential part of the character and flavour of Japanese cuisine. It is mainly used to add sweetness to a dish but thanks to the presence of amino acid it also adds ‘Umami’ the fifth taste, this can often be translated into savouriness and it can also bring out and enhance the taste of other ingredients. Good quality ‘hon mirin’ is also enjoyed as a drink (due to the alcohol content), most famously in the new year drink ‘o-toso’ when I is infused with a number of herbs with health giving properties.
So there we have it a basic background about Mirin, maybe you should give it a try.
Some words you might not have understood*:
‘Kojikin’ - a filamentous fungus (a mold). It is used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine to ferment soybeans. It is also used to saccharify rice, other grains, and potatoes in the making of alcoholic beverages such as huangjiu, sake, makgeolli and shōchū.
Mochigome - In Japan, glutinous rice is known as mochigome
Shochu - a Japanese distilled beverage
Find a great selection of Mirin our website now!
Article by Miso Meg
Photo by kattebelletje