February 18, 2010

More on Mirin/味醂(みりん)に関してさらに

(Continued from Mirin/味醂(みりん) dated August 11, 2009)

Here are some notes on mirin.

I. Substitutes for mirin
One very common example:
For 1 tbsp (15 ml) mirin, substitute 1 tsp (5 ml) sugar plus 1 tbsp (15 ml) sake.

Mirin contains 40-50% sugar, but many people suggest a ratio of 1:3 (not 1:2) for sugar and mirin. I think that the reason for this is to compensate the sharp sweetness of sugar for the mild sweetness of mirin.

Some suggest using wine instead of sake, and some suggest substituting honey if you want to give gloss and luster to your dish.

In his book, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Shizuo Tsuji wrote:
If you cannot find mirin, do not try to sweeten sake with sugar as is sometimes recommended. Rather, use sugar alone, substituting 1 tsp sugar for 1 Tbsp mirin.

He did not, however, state the reason why.

I'm not sure why, but here is one clue:

Sake and mirin both have these features:
1. Deodorize fish and meat.
2. Help flavors seep through the ingredients.
3. Bring out flavors and aromas.

These features are due to the presence of alcohol in sake and mirin.

Due to the presence of alcohol and sugars in mirin, mirin has the effect of keeping the ingredients from disintegrating. In other words, mirin toughens the ingredients. Mirin differs from sake in this respect, which softens the ingredients.

So, my suggestion will be:
Substitute 1 tsp sugar (with no sake or wine) for 1 tbsp mirin, if you simply want to add sweetness to your dish,
and add sake also, if you want the features of sake described above.

II. Which to use, mirin or sugar

Here is some general information:

1. For meat and fish, prefer mirin. (Remember the deodorizing effect of mirin.)
2. For dipping sauce for noodles, prefer mirin.
To make dipping sauce, you need a large amount of mirin. In such a case, it is recommended to boil off the alcohol of mirin before combining mirin with dashi and soy sauce.

Here are some of my preferences:
For meat and fish, I tend to use mirin only. For many nimono (simmered dishes), I also tend to use mirin only. For some dishes such as simmered kabocha, simmered hijiki seaweed, and simmered kiriboshi daikon, I tend to use sugar only.

Some recipes call for both mirin and sugar. The idea seems to be that sugar is used to provide the main sweetness and mirin is used to provide additional, mild sweetness, plus body and luster.

III. When to add mirin
Mirin is usually added to the pot at the beginning of a simmering process, but some people add mirin toward the end of a simmering process if they want to give gloss and luster to the dish. In this case, nikiri mirin (mirin with its alcohol evaporated beforehand) is preferred.

Here is how to boil off the alcohol of mirin:
Nikiri mirin
Click the link above, scroll down a little, and click one of
64k, 300k, and 1M, and the movie will start.

Two methods are presented there:
1. Simply boil off alcohol in a pot.
2. Tilt the pot slightly to set fire to the alcohol.

A simple and safe method will be to heat mirin in a microwave for some time, like I usually do.

I. 味醂の代わり
味醂大さじ1(15 ml)の代わりに、砂糖を小さじ1(5 ml)+お酒を大さじ1(15 ml)使う。



Japanese Cooking: A Simple Artという本で、著者の辻静雄は、こう書いています:



1. 魚や肉の臭いを取る。
2. 具材に味が染み込み易くする。
3. 味と香りを引き出す。




II. 味醂と砂糖のうち、どっちを使うか?


1. 肉や魚には、味醂のほうがいい。(味醂の消臭効果を思い出して下さい。)
2. 麺つゆには、味醂のほうがいい。



III. 味醂をいつ加えるか?


1. 単に、鍋でアルコールを飛ばす。
2. 鍋を少し傾けて、アルコールに火をつける。



Amato said...

Hi Hiro,
I always thought sake has stronger effect to deodorize meat/fish (than mirin)?
But you say, it’s more mirin, yes?
The deodorizing effect is very important for me, my boyfriend (I’m a girl ;-)) doesn’t like fish, he always wants meat (typically man). But if I put fish in sake, then lot of the odor is gone, and he likes it. I don’t like meat very much, you see, we have a “problem”. :-)
So, you say, it would be better to use mirin instead of sake to remove the odor?
Sake is cheaper and easier to get for me. Mirin I have to order in an online shop, this is why I ask.

I have same book from Shizuo Tsuji.
Hiroko Shimbo states the same in her book; replace mirin with sugar/sake.
I also have read about replacing mirin with sherry- I did try, and didn’t like it at all. It was totally different as with mirin, it wasn’t a good suggestion.

PS: Made purin yesterday, but only small bowl. ;-)

Hiroyuki said...

Amato: I didn't say that sake has a stronger deodorizing effect than mirin. I only said that sake and mirin both have a deodorizing effect but differ in that sake softens the ingredients and mirin toughens the ingredients.
You don't have a problem at all! Make a meat dish for your boyfriend and make a fish dish for yourself. Then, your boyfriend and you will never fight over who gets more! Just kidding!!

I have never had problem with fish odor. In Japan, any fish is fresh enough even it's not fresh enough to have as sashimi. And, I hate the word "fishy". OK, fish is fishy, fine! THEN, beef is beefy, and pork is porky! Just kidding again!

Amato said...

No, no, I didn’t mean you said sake has the feature- it was my own impression.Sorry, my bad english.
We don’t have such cooking methods in western cuisine at all.

And about “fishy”- I think there are 2 different kinds of fishy.
First one, the good fishy taste, of fresh fish, and second one, not so nice- not really fresh anymore.
I think you really can’t compare the quality of fish in Japan and here in Germany.
In north Germany it is little better, because it’s close to the sea.
But in the south -right now I live in the south(but I will move soon to the north again: missing fishy fish ;-)).
I can’t get any fresh fish at all, about sashimi quality I can just dream of.
The only fish I can get is frozen kind, I have to defrost (and then it’s often gets smelly, I need to use sake/mirin, then it tastes fine).
I really like fish, smoked fish, this is really fishy and I love this taste and smell too! I like fat fish much more than white kind.

We also don’t have such high quality meat as you have.
I and my boyfriend don’t fight about the food. He resists eating at all!
And, what do you think; I have better things to do as cooking 2 different meals every day! ;-) Typically men.:-)

There is a huge difference in our cultures,for the Japanese the enjoyment of eating is much more important than just sheer hunger.

Germany people spend first their money at their ("holy") car,clothes and house, then food, mostly rather unhealthy.
For most people high quality isn’t very important. It has to be cheap.
I really don’t like this attitude: here in Germany everything has to be cheap; especially meat.
In recent years there have been several food scandals involving tainted meat,because we want everything cheap. And ultimately we hurt ourselves.

Hiro, I could imagine, if you would visit Germany and go eat somewhere, you would say: "you want me to eat this fish/meat? You are kidding!" ;-)

Dr. Krystal said...

Thank you so much for this awesome post!

Hiroyuki said...

Dr. Krystal: Thank *you*!