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If you look at many Japanese recipes, as well as other Asian-inspired dishes, especially teriyaki and stir-fries, you’ll find a common ingredient among them — mirin. Even if you’ve never cooked with mirin, you’ve likely tasted it before.

But what exactly is mirin? How do you cook with it? And most importantly, what does it taste like?

Mirin is a common staple used in Japanese cooking. It’s a type of rice wine, similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol and higher sugar content. Mirin has a sweet flavor, which makes it a nice contrast when used with saltier sauces, like soy or tamari. It has a golden to light amber color and a slightly thick consistency.

Mirin has a low alcohol content, which ranges from one percent to no more than twenty, depending on the variety. Widely sold brands, like the one pictured above, often contain less than 10% alcohol. And, because the alcohol percentage is low, it easily burns off during cooking.

Along with soy sauce, this sweet wine is one of the main ingredients in traditional teriyaki sauce. It’s also used to finish many Japanese soups, including miso.

Mirin is widely available in most grocery stores, as well as Asian and international markets. Look for it in the aisle where soy, tamari and teriyaki sauces are stocked.

How To Use Mirin in Cooking

Mirin is really versatile and works well with everything from meat and fish to vegetables and tofu. It makes a nice addition to stir-fries and marinades, and because of its sugar content, mirin makes a nice glaze for vegetables, meat, and fish. Mirin is also known for toning down dishes that have a strong fishy or gamey taste. Do note that mirin has a strong, distinct taste, so use it in small quantities. A little goes a long way.

What’s your favorite way to use mirin?

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