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Mirin in the Boston area?

chowfamily May 16, 2008 01:39 PM

I recently attended a cooking class sponsored by the Japan Society of Boston. The chef, who lives in Tokyo, said that authentic mirin is not available locally. I found some "Sushi Chef" mirin at a local grocery store, but would love to find the real thing.

I would also appreciate recommendations for cooking and drinking sake.

Thanks for any advice in advance.

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  1. nfo RE: chowfamily May 16, 2008 02:02 PM

    Most Asian food stores (Reliable in Union Square and the shop in Porter Exchange) carry several imported varieties. The selection at Super 88 is not as good.

    I'm not sure what "authentic" mirin is, but I try to get mirin that doesn't have sugar added - it should be naturally sweet (look for naturally brewed, avoid anything with HFCS in the ingredients list, like the basic bottle of Kikkoman).

    1. yumyum RE: chowfamily May 16, 2008 02:07 PM

      This sounds a lot like the sushi chef/instructor who said you cannot find Japanese sushi chefs in town despite a few examples to the contrary. Wonder if it's the same guy.

      I get Mirin at Reliable as well. The sake selection at Downtown wine and spirits is getting better all the time. I'm no sake expert but I enjoy tasting new varieties. If you can, try to get your hands on the sake list at O Ya and sample them as your wallet allows.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yumyum
        almansa RE: yumyum May 16, 2008 02:21 PM

        Whole Foods sells Aji no Haha mirin under the Eden label. It is simply rice, koji (the bacteria that causes fermentation), water and salt, and is the best you will find. All of the mirins produced in the US (even with Japanese labeling) are required by law to contain HCFS - no shock there, the law being that naturally fermented grain with alcohol content is whiskey, and mirin producers are not allowed to make whiskey. Another excellent brand you might find, although I haven't seen it here, is Mitoku Macrobiotic.

        If you look into most Japanese restaurant and home kitchens, however, all you will find is the kikkoman garbage.

        The above post is correct about reliable, but Kotobukiya only has HCFS sweetened varieties (no matter how fancy they appear.)

      2. k
        kweesee RE: chowfamily May 16, 2008 02:13 PM

        most of the asian markets have it, including the 88supermarkets. its a good brand we use back in asia.

        unless he means authentic as in the super high quality ones you can only get locally in japan.....

        1. c
          chowfamily RE: chowfamily May 16, 2008 02:24 PM

          Thanks to all of you for your advice. The mirin I found at the grocery store lists fructose as the second ingredient, so I was not optimistic. I thought I would only find the real thing at a specialty liquor store, so it is nice to learn about alternatives.

          The chef, Keiko Hayashi, is a very nice knowledgable woman, but she is not familiar with the local scene.

          I appreciate the input, and would welcome more. I'm making this a summer project.

          10 Replies
          1. re: chowfamily
            truro RE: chowfamily May 18, 2008 07:39 PM

            I am a new resident to Boston after 3 years in Tokyo, and I was lucky enough to have taken classes with Keiko Hayashi for several years. She is a wonderful teacher and visits Boston once or twice a year. I brought some groceries with me as I was concerned about the availability in Boston, the mirin that I use is Takara Mirin and looks as though it is available in the US through special orders.

            The website is http://www.takarasake.com/mirin.php and this is the mirin used in most Japanese homes. I have also heard that there are some Japanese grocery stores in the Porter Square area.

            Good luck on the mirin hunt! I am having friends in Japan send me care packages of some basics for Japanese cuisine until I can find supplies here in Boston.

            1. re: truro
              almansa RE: truro May 19, 2008 04:13 AM

              Takara mirin is a yummy product, but the one available here in the states is their sake plus HFCS. It is made in Hawaii. The ingredients are not listed on the label, but I contacted the company by email and they replied with the ingredient list. Takara mirin can be effectively duplicated by substituting inexpensive sake plus sugar.

              1. re: truro
                chowfamily RE: truro May 20, 2008 01:12 PM

                Thank you for your input. I checked the website you helpfully posted, but it seems they cannot ship to Massachusetts under local liquor restrictions. It might be something to keep in mind in requesting care packages.

                Your experience is appreciated on this interesting, diverse board.

              2. re: chowfamily
                steinpilz RE: chowfamily May 19, 2008 04:24 AM

                Here's a list of mirin (and vinegar) sold at Kotobukiya at Porter Square.


                1. re: steinpilz
                  yumyum RE: steinpilz May 19, 2008 09:36 AM

                  The intarwebs is a magical thing. Thanks for posting this.

                  1. re: steinpilz
                    chowfamily RE: steinpilz May 19, 2008 02:30 PM

                    Another thanks. This is a very helpful site.

                    1. re: chowfamily
                      steinpilz RE: chowfamily May 19, 2008 03:20 PM

                      You're welcome yumyum and chowfamily, thanks for all your good comments on Chowhound.

                      1. re: steinpilz
                        yumyum RE: steinpilz May 19, 2008 06:28 PM

                        I love you man. No really, I've had a few emails off board from friends wanting to leave CH because it's gotten so ... value-free? It's posts from folks like you that make it a place I come back to. This will be swiped, but I hope you have a chance to see it before it does. Keep on posting!

                        1. re: yumyum
                          steinpilz RE: yumyum May 20, 2008 04:01 PM

                          Thanks very much yumyum. Though I have made harsh remarks here, and elsewhere, and I'm also a bit of a contrarian.

                          1. re: steinpilz
                            chowfamily RE: steinpilz May 21, 2008 06:02 AM

                            Nothing wrong with that!

                2. b
                  bostonbroad RE: chowfamily May 16, 2008 07:36 PM

                  I purchased some at Martignetti's on Comm Ave/Harvard St. a while back.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bostonbroad
                    Allstonian RE: bostonbroad May 18, 2008 08:35 PM

                    I think you mean Marty's. They do have a surprising selection of cooking ingredients there. Actually, if you're in that neighborhood you might also check out the Korean market, Mirim, on Harvard about halfway between Comm. Ave and Brighton.

                  2. d
                    debuci RE: chowfamily May 19, 2008 01:06 PM

                    The only place I know that has real mirin (not the sugar water crap called aji-mirin) with alcohol content greater than 12% is Beacon Hill wine and spirits on Charles St. I think the really good stuff can only be found in liquor store because of the EtOH content.

                    I agree real mirin is a must-have for real japanese home cooking. Mirin, and bonito flakes.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: debuci
                      almansa RE: debuci May 20, 2008 08:01 AM


                      Again... this is true mirin, and its alcohol content is above 14%. It is available at Whole Foods. It is not produced by Eden - only relabeled.

                      1. re: almansa
                        chowfamily RE: almansa May 20, 2008 09:06 AM

                        Thank you for another very helpful mirin link, and for the sake and good quality sugar recommendation.

                    2. Richard 16 RE: chowfamily May 21, 2008 06:59 AM

                      Traditionally mirin is made with sweet rice primarily, white rice, and koji. Eden's brand, which is very good, does not have sweet rice - at least on the label.

                      Far and away the best mirin I have found is from Mitoku. (Although I had not heard it referred to as "macrobiotic" that doesn't surprise me -- the place I order it from online caters to macrobiotic items. Mikawa (the name of the company that makes it) claims to be one of the only producers still using completely traditional methods. Because of the alchohol a little salt is added so it can be imported, the only non-traditional part.

                      Once I tried this mirin I've never used anything else. The Eden will do OK, but the depth of the Mitoku has not, in my experience, been matched by anything else.

                      The company I order it from has some other really good stuff, like rice bran taukuan pickles and hato mugi (Jacob's Tears?) vinegar. I'm not at my home computer but if I remember correctly the company's name is Simply Natural. I think they're out of New Hampshire...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Richard 16
                        chowfamily RE: Richard 16 May 21, 2008 07:16 AM

                        I looked it up and found www.simply-natural.biz, and it looks like a great resource for all kinds of ingredients in addition to delicious mirin. Thank you for the recommendation.

                        1. re: Richard 16
                          almansa RE: Richard 16 May 21, 2008 11:14 AM

                          I'll second that Mitoku is the best, but I buy mirin by the 18 liter box, so I save a ton of money by getting Eden. I can't get the Mitoku in bulk.

                        2. b
                          bulldog69 RE: chowfamily Jun 6, 2008 05:35 AM

                          Just to give a cheaper alternative, I buy Kikkoman mirin at the Cambridge Wine & Spirits next to the Alewife Whole Foods. It is $6.99 for 25.4 fluid ounces and has 12.5% alcohol. It does not have the ingredients on the label. I use the mirin weekly so cannot afford to buy a really expensive kind.

                          There are generally two types of mirin that is sold in the U.S. Mirin fu (character is wind) that usually has sugar as a main ingredient and hon mirin, which is the one with alcohol in it. However, I have to say that Kikkoman just says mirin sweet cooking sake though and not hon mirin.

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