If you’re in the mood to cook but running short on ingredients, there’s always the old tactic of asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar. If you are in Japan though, why don’t you ask your neighbor for a cup of mirin, or sweet sake used for cooking, instead?
The Sanshu Mikawa Mirin Distillery has recently been promoting sweets made with mirin. This notion is bound to turn some heads as there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between mirin and sweets in Japanese cooking, where it’s instead often used to add a flavorful touch to grilled fish or sushi. So how is it that this seemingly savory flavor can be substituted for the sweetness of sugar? The RocketKitchen is going to get to the bottom of this and eat some pudding too!
Mirin is a seasoning that is used fairly often in Japanese cooking, but hasn’t become popular yet in other styles of cuisine. It’s a type of rice wine that is similar to normal sake but has a much lower alcohol content. In the same way that sake is made from fermented rice, mirin is also made using that same process. In fact, there is quite a bit of sugar from the fermentation left in mirin. This is why it can also be used as a substitute in recipes that call for both sugar and soy sauce.
This recipe comes to us courtesy of the Sanshu Mikawa Mirin Distillery Facebook page. The very idea of using mirin in pudding filled us with cautious skepticism, but was so intriguing we had to try it.
RocketKitchen Prediction – This homemade mirin pudding will be more like chawanmushi (a savory egg custard).
▼ The RocketKitchen didn’t have Sanshu Mikawa Mirin on hand, so we just used whatever was in the house. Sorry!
Reduce a cup of mirin on the stove. This produces a syrup-like substance that is called nikiri mirin, or boiled-down mirin. This process cooks off the alcohol content in the mirin and what is left is a honey-like, starchy syrup. A quick Google search tells us that this kind of mirin is commonly used in Japan’s central Kansai region. However, since our offices are in Tokyo, you’ll have to forgive us for never encountering the stuff before.
After about 10 minutes the mirin will be adequately reduced, and while the syrup still has a slight fragrance of rice, the taste is actually sweet. By cooking off the alcohol, it seems like we have condensed and concentrated the sugars in the mirin and have produced something that can be substituted for sugar.
From here we are making the actual pudding.
1 cup of milk
a bit of vanilla essence
1 cup of mirin which has been reduced and cooled
– Warm the milk but be sure not to boil it.
– In a bowl beat the eggs and add the nikiri mirin.
– Slowly add the warm milk while mixing, be careful not to cook the eggs.
– Finally, add the vanilla essence.
– Apply a thin layer of butter to your heat-resistant pudding containers and fill them with the pudding mixture. Be sure to wipe the outside of the container before you cook them.
– Bake the pudding using a water bath in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 140 degrees Celsius (284 degrees Fahrenheit)
While the pudding is baking, it’s time to make the sauce.
“Caramel” Sauce ingredients
1 tablespoon of nikiri mirin
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of water
a bit of potato starch
▼ Mirin on the left, soy sauce on the right
Mix the wet ingredients together and then add a little bit of starch. The original recipe calls for potato starch, but any thickening agent should be fine. Just make sure you don’t use baking flour as we aren’t cooking the sauce at all.
When the pudding is done baking, take them out of the oven and refrigerate them. When they have become cool, pour on the sauce, and you’re finished!
At the beginning we thought it might end up tasting like a savory dish, but the smell of the ingredients really hint towards sweetness. we won’t know until we try it, though.
So try it we did, and it’s really, really good! Since the recipe doesn’t use normal sugar, the pudding isn’t as sweet as a store-bought one, but the texture and the feeling in our mouth are perfect. It could even rival professionally made pudding! When we gave the homemade pudding to some co-workers who didn’t know the ingredients, they asked, “What store did this come from?”
Turns out you can trust this recipe from Sanshu Mikawa Mirin Distillery. If you ever find yourself in need of some sugar, you might not have to run to the store if you’ve got some mirin in your pantry. Who knew what a versatile ingredient mirin is?
[ Read in Japanese ]