Japanese Food

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

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