I love making Asian meals, from Thai to Chinese and Korean, but to do so, I often have to use rice wine. The problem is not a lot of people have access to it, and sometimes, it can be very hard to find. Rice wine can also be expensive, depending on where you live, so it may not be an option for everyone.
There are other ways to achieve similar effects and flavor without having to go through the trouble of finding rice wine. You don’t have to worry about cooking your favorite dishes again, as some of these options can be found readily and will surely become a staple in your kitchen.
What is Rice Wine?
This type of wine is made from fermented glutinous rice during a process which the yeast converts the sugar in the rice into alcohol.
Rice wine is traditionally part of Asian cuisine, especially Chinese, but it can also be found in sauces and marinades, as it adds sweetness.
Rice Wine Vs. Rice Vinegar
Rice vinegar is also made from fermented rice, but in the process, the alcohol is fermented further, until it becomes an acid.
Because of the glutinous rice starch, this vinegar is less acidic than common kinds of vinegar, but it is still too acidic sometimes, which can alter the flavor of your dish. If you don’t have any other option, you could use rice vinegar, but consider these other choices below first.
What Can You Replace Rice Wine With In Your Cooking?
Here are the rice wine substitutes you should always have in your kitchen:
#1. Dry Sherry
This choice works like a charm, particularly if you can buy pale dry sherry. The flavor is very similar to rice wine, as it is made from glutinous rice, wheat yeast, and water. This type of dry sherry can be used because it is subtle in taste and not very sweet.
Be careful though as there are many types of sherry out there that aren’t appropriate in place of rice wine. Make sure you pick pale dry sherry as it is the only one that will have the same color and taste.
#2. Japanese Sake
This well-known dry rice wine from Japan is a good option when you can’t use rice wine. You can always find sake in Japenese restaurants, accompanying good sushi or ramen, but this wine can also come in handy when you’re cooking.
The flavor is similar, but there are many types like dry, light, dark. So make sure you taste your favorite first before picking one.
This choice may surprise you, but using gin can be a good alternative for substituting rice wine. The reason why gin works well is that it has a very similar flavor to white rice wine, even more so than sherry in some cases. Gin can be bought in any liquor store, and if you aren’t trying to make cocktails, the brand doesn’t matter.
Because gin has a higher alcohol content, it is more potent and can alter the final flavor. Try adding ⅓ of the amount originally posted in your recipe, and taste, if you feel like it needs more, you can add little by little.
#4. White Wine
You may be thinking why white wine is so far down the list, and the truth is that because there are many kinds of white wine and the flavor can vary immensely. We recommend that you pick a dry white wine if possible, as it is the one that will resemble rice wine the most.
White wine is common in Italian and Mediterranean cooking, but not so in Asian cuisine, that’s why you should pick a dry choice and try it, as it can be too sweet and ruin the flavor.
#5. White Grape Juice
While this is a non-alcoholic choice, it is still a good option if you’re in a pinch or trying to keep the flavor intact when there is no wine nearby. The acid in the grape juice will tenderize the meat, which makes it a great addition to your marinades and sauces.
You should pick white grape juice, as this is more acidic and less sweet. Add less to the recipe, about half would probably be enough, because after all most of these juices are sweetened already.
#6. Shaoxing wine
Shaoxing wine is also fermented from rice. It is a popular traditional Chinese wine that can be used to drink or cook in Chinese cuisine.
Can I Make Rice Wine From Home?
Yes, you can! It takes time and requires some special ingredients. Start by soaking four cups of rice in hot water, then drain the rice and steam it for 30 minutes, let it cool down. Then grind a fourth of the Chinese yeast ball and mix it with a teaspoon of flour. Add this mix to the rice.
Transfer the rice to clean containers and secure them. Place these containers in a warm, dry place to allow the rice to be fermented. Leave it there for about 1 month, then separate the rice from the liquid.
And that’s it! You have now made your rice wine, but make sure you store it in glass containers that are sealed and in the refrigerator.
The simple answer is yes. Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice wine, but because it is sweet, it doesn’t always taste the same as rice wine when used in some recipes. It is also less acidic and may require that you mix it with rice vinegar.
This answer depends on where you live. Commonly, rice wine can be bought in Asian supermarkets or stores, but some larger grocery stores have it available in their international aisle. Check your favorite restaurants too, as they may be able to tell you where they get theirs.
Rice wine has a mixed taste and aroma. It doesn’t smell like alcohol, it is very mild, and even sort of acidic. Often, people confuse it with rice vinegar, but they aren’t the same. Rice wine is a bit sweeter and stronger.
While rice wine may seem indispensable when you’re making your favorite Asian dish, such as fried rice, but it is replaceable and these choices work just fine. Make sure you try them first and measure accordingly, as they can alter the final taste if you add too much.
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