If you follow any Asian recipes, there is a big chance you will come across this cooking ingredient: rice wine. What exactly is this rice wine? Can you use white wine instead? Or maybe rice vinegar? The questions seem to go on and on…
So what is rice wine? Rice wine is a very popular alcoholic beverage used for cooking and drinking in Asian countries. It is made from fermented glutinous rice. During the fermentation process, the sugars are transformed into alcohol thanks to the presence of yeast.
Different Types of Rice Wine
Originated in Southeast Asia, rice wine is widely used in Asian countries, such as China, Japan,Vietnam, India, Philippines and Korea. It is available in different types of color and flavor depending on the fermentation process and addition of other ingredients like spices, herbs, or fruits.
These are the most popular rice wine in Asia:
- Huangjiu from China: In Chinese cuisine, rice wine is used to add sweetness to marinades and a depth of flavor to sauces in stir-fries. Chinese people like to add Shaoxing wine, the most popular brand in China, to Chinese chicken stock, dumpling stuffings or simply marinade meat and poultry for a better taste.
- Tapuy rice wine from Philippines: Reserved for special occasions, tapuy rice wine is made from glutinous rice and starter culture, locally known as ‘bubod’ made from rice flour and ginger extract. Tapuy gives authentic taste to foods when added while cooking or marinating. It can be used to mix cocktail drinks and served cold or warm.
- Makgeolli from Korea: As the most consumed and the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea, makgeolli basically translates to “roughly filtered”. Makgeolli is made from rice using nuruk, a Korean fermentation starter. When freshly brewed, it has a milder and creamier taste. Many people brew Makgeolli at home these days, using various ingredients to create different flavor for exploration.
- Sake and Mirin from Japan: Sake is made from rice and water in a brewing process similar to beer. It’s not only for drinking. Japanese people use it to marinate meat or fish to eliminate any odor or tenderize meat with its moisture Mirin, also known as sweet Japanese rice wine, is similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol and higher sugar content. It is mainly used as a seasoning and glazing agent.
Is Rice Wine The Same As Rice Vinegar?
I can understand where the confusion may come from. Rice vinegar sometimes is labeled as rice wine vinegar, while in reality, it has nothing to do with rice wine. Rice wine and rice vinegar are two distinct things.
Substitutes for Rice Wine
When it comes to replacing rice wine, the two most important factors are flavor and texture. The substitute should have a flavor similar to rice wine. You need to understand what type of rice wine the recipe requires as we’ve discussed earlier in this post. Different regions or cuisine have their own preferences or traditions with rice wine. For example, if you are making Southeast Asian cuisines, you may mix apple juice or grape juice with a small amount of rice vinegar.
Replace Chinese Cooking Wine With Pale Dry Sherry Or Sherry Cooking Wine
If your cook Chinese food and follow the recipes, the most commonly used rice wine is Shaoxing rice wine, which can be easily bought in Asian grocery store or online (check it out on Amazon).
But if you don’t have access to both or you prefer to use something you already have, that totally works too. You can use an equal amount of pale dry sherry. Remember to find sherry bottles with “dry” or “pale dry” labels. Sherry wines are inexpensive and food-friendly. It is fortified so it lasts longer than regular white or red wine, typically for about a week in the fridge after opening.
Reese Sherry Cooking Wine
It is good to enhance a flavor to a wide variety of dish or sauce. It is only half the size of a regular sherry wine, which is perfect for the purpose fo cooking. It contains 8% DV of sodium. Some people complain it’s too salty, however, it’s a personal preference. Overall, we think it has great value if you are looking for a nice size sherry cooking wine.
– Good for all dishes
– Maybe too salty for some people
Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine
Holland House sherry cooking wine has a pleasant aroma and adds mild sweetness to the dish. You can use it in various recipes, from Italian pasta to Chinese stir-fries. It is perfect for meat dishes and preparing sauces as well. The taste is more flavorful and abundant than other brands. So it’s a better choice for picky eaters.
– Good price and value
Replace Japanese Sake with Dry Sherry or White Wine
Sake is one of the well-known dry rice wines from Japan used as a beverage and cooking ingredient. Most liquor stores nowadays sell sake. If your neighborhood store does not have it, try the liquor store next to Costco. You can replace sake with an equal amount of dry sherry or white wine.
Replace Japanese Mirin with Dry Sherry and Sugar
Mirin is a type of sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking. It can be replaced with an equal amount of dry sherry or sake and some sugar. For example, for one tablespoon of dry sherry, add less than half a teaspoon of sugar. For two tablespoon of sake, add one tablespoon of sugar. Sweet sherry is another option.
Here are a few mirin brands we like:
Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin
This 60-ounce bottle beat the price found in Asian grocery stores. It’s such a great deal online. If you are a frequent user, buy this and you won’t regret it. It makes perfect teriyaki sauce or Asian salad dressing. I am sure it will satisfy any need whenever a recipe calls for mirin. It has a subtle sweet flavor and aids browning really well.
– Excellent value for the money
– Contains corn syrup
Eden Foods Mirin
We love using healthy ingredients to make healthy food. Eden Foods Mirin has such a nice flavor, but it does not contain any artificial or harmful ingredients. It’s all real stuff. It tastes sweet but does not make the dish overly sweet. It’s well worth the extra money and your tummy will thank you for that! Try this product to make your homemade sushi taste more like the restaurant version.
– No synthetic nitrates or nitrites
– More expensive