What Is Cooking Sake?
Generally, cooking sake is alcohol that is exclusively for cooking and made by adding salt and vinegar to regular sake. There are various types of cooking sake in Japan actually. Some cooking sake contains sweetness besides salt and vinegar, and others have less alcohol content compared to ordinary sake.
By using cooking sake, dishes become even more delicious with umami of sake. And it can take away fishy smell or meat smell of the dish, and can soften the ingredient.
Interested in learning more about Cooking Sake?
What Exactly Is Cooking Sake and Purpose of Cooking Sake
Good Substitutes for Cooking Sake
Although you can probably find cooking sake in Japanese grocery stores, some of you may have trouble finding it. Or buying cooking sake maybe too expensive only for one or two Japanese dish cooking.
So, I want to introduce the best 6 substitutes for cooking sake here!
1. Regular Sake (Japanese Rice Wine / Nihon-shu)
There is basically no problem using nihon-shu, Japanese rice wine as a cooking sake.
Regular sake doesn’t have the sweetness like mirin, so it goes well with any dish.
It not only brings great umami and koku, but also has effect of removing smell of ingredients such as fish and meat.
Are you able to get a affordable sake at grocery stores near you?
You can use any type of sake instead of cooking sake actually. So, if you can find relatively cheap one, you should try to use it as a substitute.
Click here to see “How to use regular sake instead of cooking sake depending on the situation”
Can You Use Regular Sake for Cooking?
If you can’t find any affordable sake at stores, wine can be substitute for it. The price of wine is also from very expensive to pretty cheap one, I think. Even very cheap wine is okay to use in cooking instead of cooking sake.
I recommend to use white wine for making Japanese-style meal or fish dishes, while red wine for making meat dishes.
One thing you should be noticed about red wine is that it might change the color of dishes. So, if you care about the color, you should use white wine rather than red wine. Also, using white wine is easier in terms of the taste, it’s maybe more mild and soft than red one.
When you use sweet taste wine, be careful about the amount of sugar you use in cooking. Maybe you want to reduce sugar or mirin in order to replace cooking sake with sweet wine.
The main raw materials of mirin are glutinous rice, koji rice, and brewed alcohol that are very similar to the one of cooking sake. So, you can definitely use mirin as a substitute for cooking sake.
Mirin takes away the bad smell of fish and meat, makes dishes more delicious with koku, and has the effect of soaking in the taste. Those are also very similar effect to cooking sake.
The same amount of mirin can be used as a substitute for cooking sake. But, there are some important points that you should know before using it, so please check the site below.
Beer is actually excellent substitute for cooking sake!
Beer can soften the meat and fish, and add great umami and koku to dishes. The unique smell of beer disappears when stewed.
Japanese chef sometimes use beer to make tempura, I mean they add beer when making tempura batter. As you can see from this method, beer has very high ability to make dishes so delicious.
Shochu is a distilled liquor produced in Japan. Due to the high alcohol content in shochu, you can’t expect it has effects of adding umami and softening ingredients.
However, shochu is excellent material in terms of taking away the smell of fish and meat. So, if you have such purpose (taking away odor), shochu is recommended as a substitute.
Important notice is that shochu has very strong and unique smell, and it might ruin the smell and taste of dishes. In order to avoid this, you should add shochu little by little to the dish, and make sure to season firmly with other seasonings.
Especially potato shochu has extremely unique smell, so it’s not recommended as a substitute.
6. Fruit Wine
Various types of fruit wine also can be substitute for cooking sake. When it comes to fruit wine in Japan, plum wine is one of the most famous one. Some people may find plum wine too sweet, but it’s okay substitute. You can use your original fruit wine instead of using cooking sake.
When you do that, you should reduce the amount of sugar since the fruit wine usually contains a lot of sugar. The smell of fruit wine should mostly disappear when boiled, but if it has really strong smell, maybe you should avoid using it.
How was the 6 substitutes for cooking sake?
I think some of them are familiar ingredient to you, so please try to use them when you need cooking sake in the recipe!
This is off topic, but the following liquor is not really recommended as a substitute because they have very unique strong smell and alcohol content is quite high.