Mirin is sweet rice wine, used primarily to flavor Japanese dishes. Aji-mirin is the more commonly available sweetened product, easy to find in Asian groceries and some supermarkets. And while purists may think Kikkoman aji-mirin resembles flavored corn syrup, it’s fine for many recipes. You can use aji-mirin for everyday cooking, but probably wouldn’t expect to find it in $50-a-plate sushi creations.

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On the other hand, hon-mirin is the “real stuff,” fermented rice wine that is naturally sweet without the addition of sugar or corn syrup. It’s generally more expensive, and depending on your state’s laws it could be harder to get than aji-mirin (hon-mirin has no added sugar or salt, and often has a higher alcohol content, so it must be sold as regular wine). Mirin-lover BigSal likes Mitoku brand mirin. “Once I discovered it, I cannot use anything else,” he says. “I buy it online, but it is worth it.” A final tip: Even if a product is labeled hon-mirin, always check the salt content on the nutrition label to be sure of exactly what you’re getting!