Characterized by a sweet taste and a low alcohol content, mirin is a popular Japanese cooking wine. While it's most commonly used in cooking, the wine is sometimes employed as a ceremonial drink at the beginning of the new year and a few other special occasions. Its main benefit is the dash of sweetness that the alcohol provides for a number of dishes and sauces that are common to Japanese cuisine.
In appearance, mirin has a golden hue that is very pleasing to the eye. In addition, the inclusion of this sweet cooking wine will also provide slight sheen when used to prepare fish and various types of meat. Using it as an ingredient for coating or covering with a sauce helps to enhance the presentation of the dish, helping the food to be as visually appealing as it is flavorful.
The creation of this wine begins with use glutinous rice that is combined with distilled spirits. Manufacturers only allow the fermentation process to go so far, since the focus is on achieving the correct level of sweetness and not necessarily a given level of alcohol content. It is the sweet property of the wine that helps to lessen the overall impact of strong fish odors in a number of recipes, while still managing to enhance the flavors of other ingredients in the recipe.
While mirin does not have a high alcohol content, it is often found in the liquor department of supermarkets, as well as in wine and spirits shops. This is true even for the two ceremonial versions that are used to celebrate the new year, hon and shin. Because the sweet taste is very strong, a small amount of wine in a recipe will produce excellent results.
Mirin is still primarily an additive in dishes that are indigenous to Japan, but more people are choosing to use it as an ingredient in other dishes as well. It is ideal for toning down strong tastes and odors with a variety of meats, which may allow it become a more common item in kitchens around the world.