Mirin and Sake

Arigomi
Joined: 4 Nov 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 34 weeks ago.

Why are mirin and sake used together in recipes? What does each ingredient add to a recipe that the other can't?

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Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
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Re: Mirin and Sake

For me, both liquids are quite different (like comparing a sweet sherry with a dryish vermouth) and both have their own distinctive aromas/tastes.

But when cooking, the simplest way for me to describe why I might use both is that Mirin gives a very distinct kind of sweetness to the dish. Sometimes that sweetness can be a bit cloying. Whereas Sake (and I only use dry or semi-dry sake for cooking) somehow balances the Mirin.

My opinion comes from having used Mirin and soy sauce together with and without Sake. Although Mirin and soy sauce tastes fine as a combination, there's definitely an improvement when a drop of sake is added also. For me, the tase becomes more refined/sophisticated - it's as if Sake becomes a mediator between the saltiness of the soy sauce and the heady sweetness of the Mirin and they all harmonise together.

In teriaki type recipes which provide a salty/sweet flavour you could probably get away without adding Sake if you don't have any. It won't be quite the same but it won't be too far off. Using Sake but not the Mirin won't approximate the intended result (although you could perhaps get nearer by adding sugar/honey/maple syrup).

maki
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Re: Mirin and Sake

Wow, I can't say it any better than Loretta has!

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maki
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Re: Mirin and Sake

Just get one that is affordable for you, that will be fine.

luthien
Re: Mirin and Sake

There are just too many sake at the store. Different kinds too. Which one should I get for cooking?

luthien
Re: Mirin and Sake

Thank you so much!

inktwig
Bento-ing from: fairfax › Virginia › USA
Joined: 1 Feb 2011
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Re: Mirin and Sake

Hi, I just bought a bottle of sake to use for cooking and had a question on how to store the unused portion. Do I keep it in the fridge? and how long will it keep? --Thanks.

maki
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Re: Mirin and Sake

Hi inktwig (love your username ^_^), sake can be stored in a cool, dark place, well closed. It doesn't need to be refrigeratored.

inktwig
Bento-ing from: fairfax › Virginia › USA
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User offline. Last seen 3 years 9 weeks ago.
Re: Mirin and Sake

Thank you! I'm so glad I found your blog it's very informative and really fun to read.

Sieg14
Re: Mirin and Sake

which one is best used for making Shrimp Tempura sauce? Mirin or Sake?

THanks!

Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
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Re: Mirin and Sake

Hi Sieg14

I'm not sure if there is a 'correct' answer to this question as it would depend on what kind of flavour you wanted your tentsuyu to have.

Generally, you might be better off with the mirin as the simplest sauces are made with soy sauce, mirin and water with strained bonito flakes or dashi. It tends to be the more elaborate recipes that include sake - often with mirin but occasionally without.

I've personally never made a tentsuyu with sake but without mirin.

whmice
Re: Mirin and Sake

regarding storing sake, how long can i keep it opened a week? month? until the use by date?
thank you
D

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: Mirin and Sake

It's quite alcoholic - I think you should be able to treat it like a sherry.
… I just had a look in Wikipedia, it says it's BEST consumed within hours of opening it, but that it can remain drinkable for months if kept refrigerated.

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My blog is Food and Shoes

Jessica
Re: Mirin and Sake

Cook's Illustrated recommends Mitoku Organic Mikawa Mirin Sweet Rice Seasoning which is available online. Their second favorite which is available in grocery stores is Eden Mirin Rice Cooking Wine.

By the way, if you love to cook, I highly recommend an online subscription to cooksillustrated.com. They do hundreds of taste tests, as well as equipment reviews, which I have found invaluable. They offer a free 2 week subscription and they offered me 50% off the yearly trial, so I took it and am loving it!!! Here is their full Mirin review:

"Mirin, a Japanese rice wine used in cooking, has a subtle salty-sweet flavor prized in Asian marinades and glazes. The most traditional method for creating mirin usually involves combining rice, koji (a starch-digesting mold), and a distilled spirit made from low-grade sake. The mold converts rice starch into glucose, and the resulting liquid is drawn out and clarified. It has an extremely high sugar level, nearly 14 percent alcohol, and no additives. Most of the supermarket brands of mirin in this country are a cheaper variation that combines sake or some other type of alcohol with salt, corn syrup, other sweeteners, and sometimes caramel coloring and flavoring. These products generally have lower percentages of alcohol.

Would the type of mirin we chose make a difference in recipes such as our Grilled Beef Teriyaki? We chose four brands—three from the supermarket and one mail-order organic mirin—to sample plain and in our teriyaki sauce. Sampled plain, the cheapest supermarket brands stood out for overly strong flavors. Some tasters panned one sake as “saccharine,” while another was so salty it was deemed “brackish.” Tasters enjoyed the “roasted,” “caramel-like” flavors of the second-place mirin, made in Japan using mostly traditional methods but with added sea salt. (The alcohol content is just 6.7 percent.) Our winner was the mail-order mirin, made in Japan in a year-long, traditional process. It scored a notch higher than other brands, with flavors deemed more “robust, balanced, and rich.” However, cooked into teriyaki sauce, the differences among mirins were not pronounced enough to justify splurging on a mail-order brand. We’ll continue to use our go-to supermarket mirin, but any brand would be just fine in a pinch.

RECOMMENDED:

Mitoku Organic Mikawa Mirin Sweet Rice Seasoning

Made according to traditional methods, this mirin boasted flavors that were “well-balanced” and complementary, with “woodsy undertones,” and a “smoky, maplelike aftertaste.” Tasters preferred this mirin straight up as well as cooked in teriyaki sauce.

$8.83 per 10 fluid ounces, plus shipping

RECOMMENDED:

Eden Mirin Rice Cooking Wine

Tasters praised this brand’s “roasted” flavor that was “caramel-like and rich” as well as for a “sharp contrast” between flavors overall. To one taster, it resembled “sugary Champagne.”

$7.16 per 10.5 fluid ounces

RECOMMENDED:

Sushi Chef Mirin Sweetened Sake

This sweetened sake appealed to some tasters for its overripe grape undertones, while others deemed it too sweet—like “wine candy.” Still, most tasters enjoyed the thicker consistency and “lingering sweetness” it brought to teriyaki sauce.

$3.99 per 10 fluid ounces

RECOMMENDED:

Kikkoman Aji-Mirin Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning

Sampled straight up, this mirin was “stringent and brackish,” with a “super-sweetness“ that muted any chance of real complexity. The ingredient list included corn syrup and glucose syrup. Despite these shortcomings, tasters felt it was passable in teriyaki sauce.

$3.58 per 10 fluid ounces"

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