It sounds like The Queen, though its origins are not particularly royal.
Mirin (get it?), Japanese sweet cooking wine, dates back more than 400 years. Made by combining and fermenting steamed mochigome (a glutinous rice), komekoji (rice yeast), and shochu (Japanese liquor), mirin is clear and light gold in color, and a bit syrupy.
Mirin comes in two types: hon mirin and shin mirin. Hon mirin, which is naturally brewed, contains nearly 14% alcohol. It's often used as a ceremonial drink, especially during the period around the New Year. Shin mirin has less than 1% alcohol but has the same flavor as hon mirin, so it's commonly used for cooking, and it's the type most of us have in our pantries.
Among the benefits of using mirin are these: (1) It adds a sheen to sauces and glazes; (2) it helps mask the smell of fish and seafood; (3) it has a bit of a firming effect, making it a good partner to dishes using tofu; (4) it can be stored without refrigeration for up to six months or longer after opening, though the flavor will begin to deteriorate; and (5) because it has a strong flavor, a little goes a long way.
Mirin is the magic ingredient in authentic teriyaki sauce. And with a good teriyaki sauce in your repertoire, you'll always be the queen, or king, of the hill — oops, the grill — and your family and friends will eat like royalty.
Teriyaki tofu wraps
Cooked on the grill or under the broiler, these wraps are wonderful as a main dish or appetizer. Serves 6.
2 packages extra firm tofu, drained, cut into strips
For the vegetables:
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 lb fresh snow peas, ends snapped and strings removed
12 thin asparagus, ends trimmed
For the teriyaki sauce/marinade:
1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
12 flour tortillas, brushed lightly with sesame oil and warmed slightly in a dry frying pan.
Place tofu and vegetables in a large bowl, and cover with the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for up to an hour.
Preheat broiler. Place everything on a shallow rimmed sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, and broil 5-6 minutes until lightly charred. Serve rolled up in tortillas, with any leftover marinade on top.
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