All about mirin in The Japan Times
This month’s Japanese Kitchen article in the Japan Times is about mirin, an ingredient that’s in practically every Japanese kitchen in Japan but is a bit of a mystery. Did you know that it used to be a highly prized and expensive drink? Or that it’s the base for the “health tonics” such as Yomeishu, that are sold at convenience stores and downed by stressed out, overworked salarymen tho give them a boost? Nowadays of course it’s mainly used as a cooking ingredient only. It gives a complex sweet flavor to many dishes. I also explain the differenct between the different types of products called “mirin”.
I admit I’ve never tried drinking mirin before, but I did so to research this article. Mirin mixed with clear distilled alcohol (I used vodka, but usually shochu is used) is wowsa-strong, although not bad. Mirin with plain soda water and ice is pretty good. It tastes a bit like a sweet dessert wine like vin santo or eiswein, except it has a rice-malt taste like sake. And it’s amazingly sweet, but in a complex way rather than a straight-sugar way.
If you decide to try mirin on the rocks, be sure it is hon-mirin, aka real mirin. Mirin seasoning tastes pretty bad - weirdly sweet and salty - and mirin with salt added is well, salty.
The mirin boshi recipe is one my mother has used for ages, adapted a bit to make it easier. If you are nervous about leaving fish out for a couple of days, or you have feline famly members, you can do the drying out part in the refrigerator. Turn the fish several times a day, and make sure your refrigerator doesn’t have a “fridge odor” which can be absorbed by the fish.