Do I Need Mirin? Can I Substitute It?

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Delicious Cooking without Mirin

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Do I need Mirin?

When I lived in Japan, I used mirin and never used mirin-like seasoning, without understanding anything about it. However, once you go abroad, it’s not so easy. Mirin contains alcohol, so in countries where liquor tax is high, it is a very expensive product, or not available at all.
I brought mirin with me from Japan, but of course it runs out quickly. If you look up recipes in Japanese, you will find mirin, mirin, mirin and mirin. I don’t have mirin!
So I thought, is mirin necessary?

What is Mirin?

Mirin is an alcohol. It contains about 14% alcohol by volume and 40-50% sugar. In the classification of alcoholic beverages, mirin is classified as a mixed liquor, which is different from either brewed liquor or distilled liquor.
Mixed liquors are brewed liquors or distilled liquors to which aromas are added. Mirin is a mixed liquor made from brewed liquor.
日の出みりん・料理酒の効果と使い方 | 日の出みりん|食を豊かにする「調味料」、食を楽しむ「清酒」造りの日の出みりん
「さしすせそ」と一緒に日の出調味料をプラス! 料理の「さしすせそ」をご存知ですか? 和食の基本の調味料の頭文字である砂糖の「さ」、塩の「し」、酢の「す」、醤油の「せ」、味噌の「そ」は味付けをするときの調味料を入れる順番を
https://www.s-shoyu.com/knowledge/0309

What is the role of Mirin?

Mirin has four roles in flavoring.
To remove odors
To add flavor
To add sweetness
To add umami
In addition, mirin is used to make dishes shiny, to prevent them from falling apart, and to make it easier for flavors to penetrate. However, since there are only a limited number of dishes in which mirin is effective, we will focus on seasoning.

Remove odor

Mirin is made up of about 14% alcohol. When the alcohol evaporates, it also removes odor, similar to cooking sake. This function is only for hon mirin, which contains alcohol, and cannot be expected from mirin-like seasonings, which contain almost no alcohol.

Add flavor

Mirin has a unique aroma. Not only does it add aroma to food, but it can also be used to cover the odor of food with its aroma.

Add sweetness

40-50% of mirin is sugar. Adding mirin will add sweetness.

Adding Umami Taste

Mirin contains umami ingredients such as glutamic acid and aspartic acid, so adding mirin adds umami.

Add flavor, sweetness, and umami

I believe that mirin is necessary to remove odor, mainly in fish dishes, especially in white fish with a light taste. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same access to various kinds of fresh fish in Finland as we do in Japan, so I would exclude mirin from the list of odor removers. And this odor remove function only works with hon mirin. Have you ever had the experience of using mirin-like seasoning that left a bad smell? I’m sure, the answer is NO.
Therefore, the role of mirin is to add aroma, sweetness, and umami.

The Coming Savior

I love baking bread and have been doing it every week since I came to Finland. I don’t like shokupan that much, but when I can’t eat it, I want to eat it, so I bake shokupan every week. I used to use white sugar for baking, but one day I used brown sugar without thinking and was surprised. The taste was completely different. The aroma in the mouth when you bite is very different between white sugar and brown sugar.
Shokupan, Japanese White Bread
Shokupan is the most popular bread in Japan. If you toast it, shokupan becomes crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, perfect bread.
White sugar is a seasoning that only adds sweetness. Brown sugar, on the other hand, is a seasoning that adds not only sweetness but also flavor.
What Is Seasoning?
What is seasoning? Why do we need seasoning? Seasoning makes food delicious. If you know more about seasoning, it helps your cooking a lot!
Brown sugar can add not only sweetness but also flavor. If so, wouldn’t it be a good substitution for mirin?

Can mirin be substituted for brown sugar?

Can mirin be substituted for brown sugar?
If I can say “Yes, you can!”, it would be very catchy, convenient and gratifying. But this is a complicated story. It is possible to substitute the sweetness and flavor that mirin gives with brown sugar. Since 50% of mirin is sugar, you can add about half of its weight in brown sugar. However, it does not mean that you can use it in every recipe.
There are some recipes that use mirin to its full potential, such as yuan-yaki. It is not possible to say that mirin can be substituted for brown sugar.
To put it another way, if you substitute mirin with brown sugar, you still have to taste it and adjust the taste. Considering the time and effort involved, I can’t say that mirin can be substituted by brown sugar, even if I wanted to.

Which is brown sugar?

The brown sugar I use is ruokosokeri in Finnish, which is cane sugar, as the package depicts. In terms of classification, raw cane sugar is also included in brown sugar, but I don’t recommend raw cane sugar because it has too much flavor.
In Japan, various types of brown sugar are sold, such as cane sugar, beet sugar, etc. Anyway, you can use any sugar that not only tastes good but also has a moderate flavor.

Recipes without mirin, not as a substitute

I do think that replacing mirin with brown sugar will ever overcome the original flavor. Since the recipe was designed to use mirin, it should taste best when mirin is used. It’s quite humiliating to think that those of us who don’t have access to mirin can only eat food that tastes slightly inferior to the food that use mirin. That’s why I make recipes without mirin, using brown sugar, aiming to make them as easy and tasty as, or even better than, the ones that use mirin.
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