August 11, 2009


Today, let me talk a little bit about mirin. I've wanted to talk about Japanese seasonings in some detail here, and I've wanted to start with mirin, because it is peculiar to Japanese cuisine.
In general, there are three types of mirin that are readily available in supermarkets in Japan: Hon mirin, hakko (jozo) chomiryo, and mirin-fu chomiryo.

Left: Hon mirin
Raw materials: Mochi rice, rice, malt rice, jozo alcohol (distilled alcohol*), sugars
* Jozo alcohol is alcohol for brewing, but seems to be usually translated into distilled alcohol. Jozo alcohol is used in the process of making sake.
Alcohol content: 11.5 to 12.5%
Middle: Hakko (or jozo) chomiryo (fermented (or brewed) seasoning)
Raw ingredients: Mizuame (starch syrup), alcohol, salt, wheat fermented seasoning, rice/malt rice, acidic ingredients
Alcohol content: 8.5%
Salt content: 1.7%
Right: Mirin-fu chomiryo (mirin-like seasoning)
Raw materials: Mizuame (starch syrup), rice/malt rice brewed seasoning, brewed vinegar, acidic components
左: 本みりん
原材料: もち米、米、米こうじ、醸造アルコール*、糖類
*醸造アルコールとは醸造用アルコールのことですが、通常、distilled alcoholと訳されるようです。醸造アルコールは日本酒の製造過程で使われます。
アルコール分: 11.5度以上12.5度未満
中央: 発酵(醸造)調味料
原材料: 水あめ、アルコール、食塩、小麦発酵調味液、米・米こうじ、酸味料
アルコール分: 8.5%
塩分: 1.7%
右: みりん風調味料
原材料: 水あめ、米・米こうじの醸造調味料、醸造酢、酸味料

Of the three, only hon mirin is real mirin, while the other two are mirin-like products. Hon mirin is the most expensive, while mirin-fu chomiryo is the least expensive. Note that hakko chomiryo contains some salt to make it undrinkable (that is, to avoid liquor tax). You would hear people say, "Use hon mirin." I personally wouldn't say so. Reason? I can hardly tell the difference among the dishes made with them.

Anyway, hon mirin is said to have these six features:
1. Has a mild sweetness because it contains different types of sugars, such as glucose and oligosaccharide, whereas sugar has a strong sweetness because it is pure sucrose.
2. Gives the surface of the ingredients gloss and luster.
3. Keeps the ingredients from disintegrating, because of the sugars and alcohol contained in it.
4. Has deep body and umami due to the combination of the umami components, sugars, and other components produced from mochi rice.
5. The alcohol penetrates the ingredients quickly, making it easy for flavors to penetrate the ingredients.
6. Eliminates odor. The alcohol, which has penetrated the ingredients, takes the odor away when it evaporates. Also, it causes changes to odor components because of the reaction with sugars, amino acids, and organic acids.
Reference/参考: Webpage of Zenkoku Mirin Kyokai/全国味醂協会のウェブページ (Japanese only)
(To be continued)/続く


Towkay said...


thanks for clearing that up, my japanese grocer only stocks the mirin type seasoning. It must be due to the quantity needed by the average household that it is produced in such huge quantities to be so inexpensive even in new york!

How about a post on miso? Now that is really confusing!

Hiroyuki said...

Miso? Oh, yes, I will cover that subject some day, after the O-Bon vacation. I'm sure a lot of Japanese will visit your country during the vacation!

Mama said...

Thank you for this post! I love cooking with mirin. It's good to know the different types.

Hiroyuki said...

pink: There will be another post about mirin after the O-bon vacation!

Amato said...

Dear Hiroyuki,
this is great information, here in Germany I didnt have any idea about different mirin kinds.
My cookbooks dont provide such information.

Do you know: "manjo mirin"? I think this is a kikkoman brand.I have a "problem" with this kind, is this "hon" or not?
My problem is, if I look at the label with igredients in english it doesnt look like "hon" but the german label looks like.
After I have read your post first time, I discovered here in Germany "mirin taste" is sold as "hon mirin" for very high price.:-(
It seems the trasnlation is wrong on purpose, so it looks like real mirin, and they can make more money.
Now I try to make it more clear on my blog, because I dont like the shops doing this.

Amato said...

Me again, sorry.

Is "shio mirin" and "Hakko chomiryo" the same?
Thank you!

I will translate and use this great information on my blog.

Hiroyuki said...

Amano: Can you identify the product you are talking about from here:
If you are talking about this brand:
It's a hon mirin. The ingredients are:
Mochi rice, rice, rice koji, jozo alcohol, and sugars.

Hiroyuki said...

Shio mirin = Hakko chomiryo = Jozo chomiryo.
I guess you are referring to the entry of mirin in Wikipedia.
I'd like to point out that there is one stupid explanation about mirin in that entry in Wikipedia:
In the Kansai style of cooking, mirin is briefly boiled before using, to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate, while in the Kantō regional style, the mirin is used untreated. Kansai-style boiled mirin is called nikiri mirin (煮切り味醂),[8] literally "thoroughly boiled mirin."
This is not true. Nikiri mirin is used in both Kanto (Eastern Japan) and Kansai (Western Japan).
For those dishes (such as aemono (dressed dishes)) that are not heated, you need to evaporate the alcohol before using the mirin, that's all.

Hiroyuki said...

One more thing: The kanji for hon is:

which means real.
So, if a product has this label:
then it's a hon mirin.
But the word hon is somewhat deceptive because there is another kind of mirin, real, traditional, and authetic mirin, like 3-year and 10-year(!) mirin.

Amato said...

Dear Hiro,
Thank you so much for all the useful information, you are a great source!
I didn’t want to have some wrong information on my blog, now you saved me. 
Here in Germany we have a lot of confusion about mirin. Many Asian markets belong to Chinese or Vietnamese people who sell Korean and Japanese products- you can imagine how confusing it is!
Yes, exactly, this was the mirin kind I was looking for: manjo mirin/kikkoman. Thank you!

I have this fantastic book from Hiroko Shimbo (250 traditional recipes), there she also states, it’s not easy to get good, "real" hon mirin.
I know just one shop; they sell macrobiotic/organic food and have some traditional Japanese products and hon mirin. It’s pretty expensive; it is “mikawa mirin”.

Yes, it was the wikipedia entry which confused me; I couldn’t find much useful information about mirin, only here on your blog.
I already did wonder about some aemono recipes, these sometimes called for mirin but I never knew, should I cook mirin before I use it or not. Now I know.

If you are interested what kinds of mirin we have here, maybe you like to see the assortment from a Japanese food online shop here: Dae Yang Shop
This shop is in Düsseldorf, and it’s the city with the biggest Japanese community in Germany. But you will see they label some mirin as hon, some not...

Here I buy my food for Japanese cooking but also in few organic food stores.

I’m sorry, I answer this late, and I didn’t check the box about letting me know you answered.

Will you write some similar posts about shoyu or miso?

Hiroyuki said...

Amato: Thanks for the link. It is confusing for those who can't read Japanese! But as I said previously, if you see the kanji for hon

it is a hon mirin, and if you see the kanji for fu

which means "-style", "-like", etc.,
as in
then it is not a mirin but a mirin-like product.
The term "shin-mi-ryo" (new-flavor-seasoning)
is used by some manufacturers, especially King Jozou, which produces Hinode brand mirin and mirin-like products.

I will post about shoyu and miso some day; it's only that I can't promise when!