Some general questions on Japanese food

FreakPower70
Bento-ing from: › Ontario
Joined: 24 Nov 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 36 weeks ago.

Hello, I have a few general questions on Japanese food.

Firstly, what should I do if I have an aversion to alcohol or can't find mirin or sake in the stores near me? I have indeed head of mirin without alcohol but I have also heard it is of poor quality.

Secondly, for general rice cooking (not sushi rice) is there a particular way to season it?

I suppose that is all for now
FP

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rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 3 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

hello freakpower70,
maki wrote about mirin in this post: http://www.justhungry.com/the-role-alcohol-onion-and-ginger-japanese-mea... , it might be helpful to you.
plain rice isn't seasoned at all (look here: http://www.justhungry.com/2003/11/japanese_basics_1.html), the seasoning comes with the side dishes. salt is added to the outside of onigiri while making them and then, there's always furikake to spice up your rice! http://www.justbento.com/handbook/johbisai/homemade-furikake-no-1-radish... .
try the search function :)!
rehfilet

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 4 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

Hi FreakPower70,

rehfilet has answered your rice question perfectly but I'm wondering if there's an underlying reason for you to ask about rice - for instance, have you tried to make plain Japanese rice and found you didn't like it?
If so, there are plenty of ways of preparing everyday rice so that it has more flavour (and is more nutritious).
Just to start you off there's:
http://www.justhungry.com/2003/11/recipe_mushroom.html
http://justbento.com/handbook/recipe-collection-mains/spring-maze-gohan-...
http://www.justhungry.com/how-cook-bamboo-shoots-takenoko
In many of these rice and vegetable dishes, the rice is seasoned as it cooks with dashi or kombu

Also:
My husband likes barley (mugi) in his rice, adding a few barley grains is essentially a very simple zakkokumai, which Maki describes here:
http://www.justhungry.com/zakkoku-mai - should give you ideas for grains and seeds to add to rice, I've also heard about white poppy seeds, buckwheat being added.

As for Mirin and Sake
Well, it's natural that non-alcoholic Mirin (sometimes called shin mirin) would be inferior to real Mirin (hon mirin). I think most of the warnings you'll see about the quality of shin mirin is because it can be sold as 'real' mirin. But it is what it is, and as a non-alcoholic substitute it serves its purpose well (I admit it's been a long time since I've used non-alcoholic Mirin). If you can get it, it seems to be the ideal product for your needs. Mitsukan make one for the US market based on corn syrup.
As for Sake, as long as you will be cooking with it, you might want to substitute a drop of rice wine vinegar = the mildest you can find (*see note below*). Be sparing with the quantity used - i.e. if the recipe calls for a large quantity of sake, vinegar won't be a great alternative, but if it's for just a tablespoon or two, my suggestion is to add half the quantity asked for as vinegar instead.
I know that vinegar can still have trace amounts of alcohol left in it, but this will be negligible especially after cooking with it.

So lets take as an example the kinoko takikomi gohan recipe http://www.justhungry.com/2003/11/recipe_mushroom.html
My advice is to either use 1 tablespoon of the non-alcoholic mirin or a couple of teaspoons of sugar (you might like to 'enrich' the sugar taste with just a drop of maple or golden syrup to get more of a Mirin quality)
And for the sake you could add about half a tablespoon of vinegar.

If you ever get the chance to buy it, do please realise there are some wonderful, wonderful vinegars being made from rice wine. The 'standard' Mitsukan rice wine vinegar which I use is almost like the equivalent of pomace olive oil - very low quality when compared to some of the higher grade, milder vinegars available. These are more like virgin or extra virgin olive oil... but with vinegar.
For instance, here are premium vinegars from Mitsukan for the Japanese market:
http://www3.mizkan.co.jp/sapari/product/group/index.asp?id=01006&sid=01
and, more pricey
http://www3.mizkan.co.jp/sapari/product/group/index.asp?id=01006&sid=01
This is what I would be looking into as a way to replace sake in recipes if I couldn't tolerate alcohol - but that's me, and there's no need to get so anal about it! :D

*!!!!Additional note!!!!*
Please note that Maki does NOT recommend substituting sake with vinegar
http://www.justhungry.com/about-japanese-ingredients-and-substitutions
I agree wholeheartedly with her point about it making food sour, which is why I think it should only be used sparingly (my reasoning is that just as I use sake to temper the sweetness of Mirin, a drop of vinegar can tame some of the sweetness of sugar or shin-mirin... and I am guilty of having added a few drops of quality balsamic vinegar as a substitute for a few spoonfulls of Brandy)

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 3 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

( that's a funny and colourful expression but i don't get it- what is "being anal about something"? did i do it? it feels weird not to know..) :D

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 4 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

Although it's related to Sigmund Freud's theories, this phrase (which is used a lot in the UK) is not totally accurate. It's an example of popular psychology corrupted in every day use.
Being 'anal' is short for being 'anally retentive' - usually used when people take things far too seriously (like I sometimes do!)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_retentive
I wanted to highlight that there is no need to get so 'precious' about cooking ingredients... not unless you want to.
And, to clarify, I was saying that I was being anal - not anyone else! :)

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 3 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

thank you, loretta!
i thought about freud, the old fart, for a moment, but dimissed that rather complex idea, it didn't seem to apply here.
anyway, thank you, british people. that's a really good corruption of freud's theory! a lot easier to understand and with real practical value in everyday situations. maybe it shouldn't be "corrupted", more like "evolved" :)
rehfilet

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 23 weeks ago.
Re: Some general questions on Japanese food

It's used a lot in New Zealand as well. Sort of a cross between pedantic and fussy.

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Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

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