"The Hidden Charms of Mirin as an Ingredient"

"Seaweed that can be more interesting than interesting"

Navigator: Shui Ishizaka

Shui Ishizaka

Shui Ishizaka, born in Melbourne, raised in Sydney. Winner of the Australian U30 culinary competition "Appetite For Excellence Young Chef of the Year," he took charge of culinary development as sous chef at Tokyo’s INUA restaurant, a two-Michelin-star winner in 2018.

Experimenting in Sea Vegetable’s test kitchen, he has uncovered the previously unknown taste profiles of more than 100 varieties of seaweed.He has also been participating in menu development for this spring’s "Noma Kyoto" pop-up.

When diving into the sea and holding naturally harvested raw mirin, I found it fascinating due to its firm and bouncy texture.

However, among all the seaweeds I've dealt with, mirin is the most sensitive to environmental changes. Its condition can change in just a short amount of time, making it challenging to deliver it to the kitchen while still fresh. That's why we immediately sprinkle it with salt upon harvesting and have it delivered.

The delicacy of mirin lends it a very distinctive texture. Unlike Tosakanori, which offers the same texture regardless of the part you eat, mirin has both an outer layer and a core. The outer layer is crispy while the core is slightly sticky.

Salted mirin is not just an interesting ingredient; it's a versatile ingredient that can create interesting dishes. The texture undergoes intriguing changes depending on the duration of the salt removal process.

Rinsing the mirin briefly results in a crispy outer texture. As you extend the salt removal time to 2 or 3 minutes, the interior texture becomes softer and stickier.

Because you can adjust the saltiness and texture according to your dish, varying the salt removal time expands the range of dishes you can create with it.

For instance, a salad combining figs, tomatoes, cheese, and mirin.

Quickly rinse the mirin under running water for about 20-30 seconds to remove excess salt( similar to rinsing soba noodles). Then, drain the water and pat dry thoroughly to remove excess moisture. This way, the saltiness remains while the interior becomes less sticky, resulting in a crispy outer texture.

The delicate saltiness is akin to the saltiness of Italian prosciutto or Spanish Iberico ham. To accentuate this flavor, combining it with nut-based oils creates a taste reminiscent of ham made from acorns, enhancing its savory profile.

Here's another example: mirin namero.

After adequately removing excess salt, the slimy texture returns to the filling, becoming slightly sticky to the point where it strings a bit. While retaining the outer crispy texture, it becomes similar to okra due to its stickiness.

I think sometimes at izakayas, they mix in okra or natto with namero. I added mirin thinking its stickiness would complement it, and it turned out deliciously, blending perfectly with the texture of horse mackerel.

Mirin is indeed a type of red algae, but I feel it's quite different from typical red algae. It lacks the typical scent of red algae and has a mild, gentle flavor without any strong aftertaste, making it versatile for any seasoning. I don't think there's anything you could season with mirin that would taste bad. So, I recommend marinating it in something.

Marinate mirin in mirin overnight, then combine it with enoki mushrooms and shiso leaves, and wrap them in perilla leaves.

The aroma of the mirin pairs wonderfully with the toasted sake, and the texture of the enoki mushrooms complements mirin well.

Unlike hijiki or tosaka-nori, mirin is best enjoyed in bundles for a more interesting taste.

Just like you wouldn't eat each strand of somen or soba noodles individually, it's the combination that makes them delicious. Mirin is similar; it's much more enjoyable when you eat a decent amount at once. That's why when using it in cooking, I prefer to use it quite generously rather than just as a side.

I believe that the texture is the strongest and most enjoyable aspect of mirin. If you enjoy this texture, you can appreciate it in any dish you use it in.

If you're using mirin at home, it's interesting to use it in hot pot dishes instead of shirataki noodles. Instead of boiling it together, just add it to the finished dish for an easy and enjoyable twist.

Mixing grated daikon radish and mirin at about half and half ratio, and then adding ponzu or dashi broth, also makes a delicious combination. The spiciness and flavor of the radish are enhanced by the mirin, which also adds texture.

Another idea is to make Tororo rice. Mixing Tororo (grated yam) and mirin in equal parts gives a deliciously gooey texture.

Eating rice with wasabi on mirin soy sauce pickles is also delicious. And then, sprinkle some Suji Aonori on top.

It's quite a niche, but recently, there's been a trend of seasoning seaweed with seaweed.

Each seaweed isn't universally versatile; they each have their strengths and weaknesses. So, it's interesting to see how these seaweeds complement each other's flavors.

Salted Mirin

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