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Mirin (味醂 /みりん)
Mirin is a sweet rice wine which make the foods sweeter. It also give the foods extra flavour and gloss.
What's the best substitute of Mirin?
Mirin (味醂 / みりん) is a sweet rice wine.
So it's made of rice.
Therefore, I wouldn't recommend to use any vinegar or sweet wine to replace Mirin, because the ingredients isn't related.
My recommendation is to simply use a mixture of water and half amount of sugar.
Basically, do not use western ingredients to replace Asian ingredients. And same for the opposite situation.
They are made of different ingredients, and for different purposes.
Why Mirin is sweet?
Mirin also contains Shōchū or some alcohol, and "Rice Koji"
*Shōchū (焼酎: Japanese distilled beverage made by rice, barley etc)
*Rice koji is a fermented food which is made of steamed rice that is cultivated by attaching "koji-mold".
After mixing all the ingredients, it usually takes few months for aging.
In the meantime, "koji-mold" develop the complex flavour and sweetness.
So it's a result of aging, and the power of the fermented foods.
Why Mirin gives foods gloss?
The sugar content in Mirin form shiny coating on the foods.
There are many different kind of sugar content in Mirin, that makes the chemistry happening. And sugar cannot make foods as shiny as mirin does.
If you really want the shine to stand out, add mirin at the end will be effective.
Also, Mirin contains some amino acid. So it adds umami to the foods too.
How to avoid poor quality Mirin?
Make sure to buy the products called "Hon Mirin (本みりん / 本味醂).
It basically means "Real Mirin".
The ones made with traditional method like written on above.
There is also a different kind of mirin called "Mirin fu seasoning / Mirin-like condiment" (みりん風調味料 / 味醂風調味料).
This is cheaper than Hon Mirin, but it has some artificial ingredients to speed up the Manufacturing process. So the flavour and sweetness isn't as elegant as Hon Mirin.
But it hardly has any alcohol meanwhile Hon mirin has about 14% alcohol.
So it could be a good option if where you live does not allow to sell alcohol.
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