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May 10, 2011 07:25 AM

"Real Mirin" help

So I've decided it's time to replace the Honteri corn syrup in my fridge with some "real mirin". The only problem is that I'm not too sure which "real mirin" I want. I know Mitoku Organic Mikawa comes recommended highly, but I've already spent 20 minutes staring at the selection Sunrise has to offer, so I think I rather go with one of those than hunt down Mitoku.

So this means I'm looking at two different varieties from Morita, the ryori-shu with a 13% alcohol content and the hon-jozo with an 8.5% alcohol content. I know mirin is supposed to be 14%, so my instinct is the ryori-shu, but some of my reading suggests that ryori-shu is something slightly different from traditional mirin? I really have no idea what I'm talking about here, please help.

If you want to know what I'm looking to use it for, I often cook from the Momofuku cookbook, use it for burdock kinpira, would like to thin out ssamjang/gochujang to make sauces, etc.

I'm hoping to just pick up one of these at the midtown Sunrise on my lunch break. If you can recommend something/somewhere else, that wouldn't be too out of the way or more expensive (I work in Rock Center), I'm open to it but at this point would just like to go to Sunrise. I actually live in Queens, but the Pacific by me only carries the Kikkoman Aji.

These are the two products I'm talking about if you want to take a look:

Thanks in advance!!!

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  1. Relax. Sunrise stocks Mirin made by Takara, a Japanese brewer of sake in California. It's "real" and it works fine. I suggest going with that.

    Sunrise Mart
    14 E 41st St, New York, NY 10017

    2 Replies
    1. re: penthouse pup

      I don't remember seeing this...unless one of the ingredients was corn syrup and I discounted it. Thanks though, I'll take a look if I don't hear anything else.

      I should mention the other difference between the ryori-shu and hon-jozo is that the ryori-shu has significantly less sugar, making it not very sweet at all (I think), which makes me wonder if the hon-jozo is actually what I want, regardless of the alcohol %.

      1. re: serasyl

        Have you tried the japanese culinary center in midtown?

        Japanese Culinary Center
        711 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10017

    2. "Ryorishu" means a type of sake made specifically for cooking - generally it's lower quality than traditional drinking sakes, can be made with unpolished rice, and usually has added salt - around 2%, just enough to make it unfit for drinking - so that stores w/o alcohol licenses can sell them. It isn't sweetened like mirin, either. It's technically a "cooking sake" and not a mirin, though.

      Honjozo is a type of sake where ethyl alcohol is added to stop the fermenting process, then water to bring the alcohol %age back down again. It uses polished rice of Junmai-level (at least 30% of the outer coating is milled away) so it's a higher quality than most cheap sakes, but not technically a Junmai. I'm guessing the Honjozo mirin is merely a mirin that used a Honjozo sake as its base, which would suggest it's a little higher quality than most run-of-the-mill ones.

      That said, making your own mirin is fairly simple. Find a reasonably-priced sake you like, no more than you'd pay for a cooking wine, and mix it with sugar - some say 2:1 (sake:sugar) but I find that bit too sweet, personally - I do 3:1 ratio or even less - but you can adjust to taste, and don't need to make a whole bottle at once - just make it as you need it. Also, then you can play around with it using alternate sugar sources - I'll use honey or palm sugar somtimes depending on what I'm cooking. Either let the sugar fully dissolve at room temp, or put it over low heat (so you don't burn off all the alcohol) to do it faster, then store it for later use.

      But the truth is, most Japanese brands, even the "better" ones, use corn syrup - they're not as hung up about it as we are. So if you're going for "authentic Japanese flavor" that's the stuff.

      14 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          Wow thanks!
          I am totally going to make my own.

          I have serious problems with most brands....

          1. re: sgordon

            Just make sure you start with a pretty dry sake, or at least take into account the sweet/dry level before sugaring, it can make a big difference. One nice thing about making your own, too, is that you can use different sakes for different dishes - after all, you wouldn't make a Coq Au Vin with just any random wine.

            Most of the time, the cheapest Junmai or Honjozo that you'd drink will do, though I have a couple of special sakes I like for particular dishes. Sometimes for beef dishes I'll use Komatsu Tatewaki, which is a Taru-sake (aged in cedar), as it adds an interesting complexity. Depends on the other spices in play, though. For some fish, like a classic miso-cod, I like Tamano Hikari Yamahai - "Yamahai" is a brew that's been exposed to wild yeasts, and takes on a slight tart / funky flavor - similar to a Lambic beer, but not so mouth-puckering. The tartness level would be more comparable to, say, yogurt. Often (like Lambics) Yamahais can be on the more expensive side, but Tamano Hikari is pretty reasonable.

            And for even more complexity consider using a Hitachino Nest rice ale - while not technically a sake because the fermentation process is different (no Koji is used, plus there's the addition of hops) there are enough similarities that it can fulfill the same role while providing an interesting new element

            1. re: sgordon

              thanks, this is really helpful and opens up new doors, I love it!
              Taru sake is one of my favorite styles, I'll definitely use that. Bet it goes great with pork as well.
              I'm thinking a nama sake would also be good for miso-cod...

              1. re: pauliface

                Did you end up doing it? What were the results? Very curious to know.

                I read an article about hon-mirin recently in the NY Times...I'm surprised that Sunrise Mart is able to sell any sort of "real" mirin because of the alcohol content...According to the article there is only one place where you can definitely get true mirin in NY, it's new york's only sake-only store. It's called Sakaya. Has anyone tried the mirin from there? I would try it myself, but right now I have so many food curiosities, but a very limited budget, and there are things I have prioritized above mirin (I have the Mitoku kind and am happy with it, but I have to say, it didn't drastically change the face of my Japanese cooking like I hoped it would)


                Sakaya 324 East 9th Street
                New York, NY 10003

                1. re: treestonerivershrub

                  I'm also a Mitoku user; in fact, I've been using the same bottle for a good 20 years (it was called Emperor's Kitchen back then; obviously, I don't use much). I've always been happy with it, for good reason it seems: . It's really a first-rate product with a lot of history behind it. In fact, Mitoku distributes quite a few first-rate products (e.g. their toasted sesame oils) which is why I use only their tamari.

                  BTW, my bottle doesn't indicate an alcohol content although the alcohol's definitely detectable. I'm guessing maybe the newer bottles do...?

                  1. re: MacGuffin

                    You can also obtain Mitoku Mirin from Natural Import ( stock high quality Japanese food products. Note that contrary to what a poster above states, Sakaya absolutely does not sell Mirin--that was a NY Times error.

                    1. re: penthouse pup

                      I bought mine at the Health Nuts on Broadway and 74th St. years ago (label's still on the cap); unfortunately, that branch was forced out before the market tanked. Still, I'd think it could be found at other health food stores--the only places I've ever seen Mitoku (and Ohsawa) products carried--and maybe possibly at the remaining Health Nuts locations. The time to replenish my existing stock is (finally) imminent so I guess I'll find out soon. :)

                      1. re: penthouse pup

                        That's too bad! I wonder why they ran that article then. Do you know anyplace where you can get the stuff they were talking about?

              2. re: sgordon

                "It isn't sweetened like mirin, either."

                Not to detract from your ingenuity but real mirin isn't "sweetened," it's sweet. It's just rice, sweet rice, mold, and water.

                1. re: MacGuffin

                  Well, hon-mirin, no - but as of this point (unless you're a snooty purist) "mirin" is a more generic term for the whole lot of style. I've seen quite a few bottles of cheaper corn syrup stuff in the kitchens of Japanese restaurants that you'd think wouldn't use it. Like I said... they're not as hung up about that stuff as we American foodies are.

                  Regardless, in reference to Ryorishu, I should have said it's not "sweet" at all, I suppose.


                  I've never tasted it, but I'm pretty sure the Eden Organic brand is a hon-mirin, for those concerned about it. I think they carry it at Whole Foods.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Well, the subject was "real," so I took it from there. My first introduction to ingredients of this type occurred when I became a vegetarian--I started shopping at health food stores for what was needed to duplicate some of the macrobiotic dishes I tasted and happened to stumble on a better quality than what I later found in Japanese and Korean markets (comparing labels was, of course, very persuasive); I still use these products to the exclusion of others. And yes, I think you're right about what Eden distributes although I've never had it (as stated, my one bottle of mirin has lasted a LONG time).

                    1. re: MacGuffin

                      I have tried the Eden mirin. It was fine--again, not a game-changer--but frankly overpriced.

                    2. re: sgordon

                      I was out shopping today and saw that the Eden mirin contains salt. Both it and Mitoku are available at the Health Nuts uptown (B'way & 98th, I think); prices are very high there, though. I have no idea what Natural Import charges for shipping but their prices proper are MUCH lower.