Secret ingredient: Mirin
It's a cooking wine, but not one you'll be tempted to drink. Here's how to use mirin, the sweet rice wine beloved by fans of Japanese food, in your cooking.
WHAT IS MIRIN?
Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice wine sauce made from rice, water and koji (aspergillus oryzae), which is a natural fungus that ferments the rice. It's very popular in Japan, where it's used on a daily basis.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Sherry or a sweet wine with an Asian twist. Mirin has 13-14 per cent naturally occurring alcohol (thanks to the koji-fermented rice). Think of mirin as a lower alcohol version of sake, but you only use mirin for cooking, not drinking like sake.
WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
Japanese food stores or in the international aisle of a good supermarket. You can also find organic mirin in most health food aisles.
WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD?
A glass of Nana's sherry or any other type of fortified wine. But if you'd prefer a non-alcoholic substitute, brown sugar is perfect to replace the sweet factor.
GOT ANY GOOD RECIPES USING IT?
If you're a seafood fan, mirin works beautifully in sesame seared tuna. Alternatively, try this Japanese beef dish for a wonderful fusion of sweet and salty flavours. Mirin also works well in this super-fast recipe for chicken donburi.
Trudi Nelson is a member of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers. Check out www.fresh.co.nz for more of her recipes or call her on 0800 FRESH TV.
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