Sunday, September 20, 2009

Japanese Flavorings

Most people know what soy sauce is, but there are a few more flavorings that should have a place in your refrigerator if you often cook meals with an Oriental bent. Let’s take a look at some of the staples you might not be familiar with.


Mirin is a type of sweetened sake (a rice wine). It adds a delicious zing to Asian dishes that need that “something”. Mirin adds a mildly sweet taste that is full of flavor. To put it into perspective, think: instead of adding white wine to mushrooms, you’d add mirin to an Asian mushroom stir fry.

Rice Wine Vinegar

There are more types of vinegar in the world than you can probably count. From champagne vinegar to balsamic, each has its own place. Rice wine vinegar is the most popular type used in Japan, and provides a very light vinegary taste to dishes. Rice wine vinegar appears either colorless or yellow – but chances are your supermarket’s version will be yellow. Not surprisingly, it can be used to flavor rice – or be added to dressings.


The word miso might remind you of miso soup. However, miso is actually a paste made from fermented soybeans. This will be tough to find in a regular grocery store, but should be available at your local health food store. It is stored in a tub and comes in red or white – the white being saltier and more potent of the two. Miso is commonly used in soups, but can also be a key ingredient in noodle dishes and makes an excellent dressing when added to oil, vinegar and other flavorings.

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