rice wine or sake vs. rice cooking wine
I am looking at a recipe for char siu (chinese BBQ pork) that calls for rice wine or sake. I have in my pantry a bottle of shao hsing rice cooking wine. Could I use this instead? I have my doubts.
I think that rice cooking wine (aka mirin) is sweetened and salted regular ricewine. Also it's probably a lot lower quality stuff. I would go out and buy a cheap bottle of sake.
Since the recipe is already veering off a little (sake is not the same as Chinese rice wine), I'm sure it would be OK in the abstract, but that cooking wine stuff is about as good as American "cooking wine." In other words, it's not.:(
If you won't have enough use for it to go to a Chinatown liquor store and buy a proper drinkable version, a small bottle of sake (cheap for an OK if not wonderful version) might be your best bet. You can freeze the leftovers for future use if you don't feel like drinking it.;)
If you have the good old traditional Chinese-American standby dry sherry around anyway, I would just use that.
PS: Mirin and Chinese cooking wine are not at all alike. The latter is salted (to prevent drinking), but not sweetened. Mirin is either only partly fermented (the real stuff which is very hard to find here) or heavily sweetened with corn syrup (the majority of what you find in Japanese groceries.) It's primarily used as a sweetener, though of course it does add a characteristic, if faint, flavor of its own. Chinese rice wine / sake are used for flavor and maybe a slight tenderizing effect in some cases, not for sweetening.