What’s Special About True Rice Wine? -2
CHIBA – Mirin is used for more than just daily cooking. It has a sacred meaning too. January 1st in Japan is a special day to celebrate the beginning of the new year. People used to have the custom of toso, New Year’s ceremonial cup of alcohol. The tradition of toso is believed to have started as a court event and later spread to the general public. In big cities, this custom is near dead nowadays. The toso drink is herbal liquor in which herbal medicine is soaked in mirin or sake. If you had this tiny cup of liquid on New Year’s Day, it was believed that evil spirits were expelled for a year, bringing health and happiness to your family. Miri, like sweet liqueur, used to be enjoyed as a part of this ritual.
Tasty old-style mirin has a long history. This type of mirin represents its producer’s obsessive enthusiasm. It’s not easy to make, requiring a lot of effort, which limits the production volume and pushes up the price. Still, condiment of this high quality is attractive. Normally, this product isn’t available at regular stores. Condiments help create our good health. Even if you are picky about organic vegetables, there is a possibility that you choose a condiment containing a lot of additives. If you are sensitive about organic vegetables, you might want to select condiments made through a natural way of production.
According to Sachiko, old-style mirin exhibits a lot of health benefits. Most outstanding is its anti-oxidant effect*3. A study group proved mirin’s anti-aging effect. This mirin presses down lipid peroxidation and produces new cells. Mirin is also a low-GI (glycemic index) food. GI refers to the rise in blood sugar level. If the GI is low, blood sugar rises slowly. It is believed that if blood sugar rises rapidly, a sudden change will be created in a body, which will cause the desire for sweeter food. If high-GI food causes rapid rising and falling repeatedly, negative effect are expected*4: the sensation of hunger will be stimulated, flab will be increased and the skin will be less healthy, according to studies. Old-style mirin is said to promote healthy skin, and aid recovery from fatigue due to amino acids and vitamin B generated by the enzymes in koji rice malt. In addition, mirin is said to reduce hypertension. This is just a part of mirin’s entire profile. Despite its multifunctional role, mirin works silently.
What about using mirin instead of refined sugar? Refined sugar brings simple and straight sweetness while traditional mirin gives elegant and soft sweetness. The complicated sweetness is enabled by koji, which contains grape sugar and oligosaccharide. Mirin’s amino acid also offers umami and richness of taste. Sachiko made mirin pudding by using no refined sugar. Its recipe is almost the same as one for a regular pudding, involving blending eggs, milk and vanilla beans. Just use mirin syrup instead of refined sugar.
It’s easy to make mirin syrup: Just simmer traditional mirin until it reduces to half the amount. After alcohol is completely evaporated, the amber-colored mirin syrup is done! And it tastes amazing! When you pour it over pudding, its sweetness is more subtle than that of caramel sauce. “Traditional mirin has many characteristics. Among them, taste and cooking effects are the most distinctive. The complicated sweetness is elegant, and the rich umami cannot be realized by refined sugar. If you use traditional mirin for your cooking, you would feel that you’re a good cook,” Sachiko said. In addition to those strengths, the way mirin eliminates fishy smells, gives glossiness, helps taste penetrate and maintains other ingredients’ firmness is all quite attractive for a fan of cooking. If you a food lover, you will enjoy food without guilt when you find that your cuisine is without sugar and low-GI.
Traditional mirin has a variety of uses. In pursuit of developing healthy desserts, real mirin will play an especially prominent role. Real mirin not only provides glossiness and sweetness, but also excellent taste, health benefits and delight in your food. As more people pay attention to health than ever, traditional mirin may attract more attention not only in Japan, but globally as well.
*2-3: Sachiko Takagi’s textbook, “Cozy Book, Nagareyama Mirin”.
*4: Erica Angyal, http://www.erica-angyal.com/#book/sanjyunichijijyodiet/
“Healthy Life with Low GI Food,” http://cc-zo.com/gi/tgi/imi.html