Rice wine of various kinds is widely used in Asian cooking. Japanese sake and mirin are very different from each other, and from the rice wines used in Chinese cooking. Although rice wine is more readily available in America than it was in the past, it can still be problematic to find on short notice. When necessary, you can use a variety of substitutions
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Things you need
- Dry pale sherry
- Dry white wine
- Apple juice, or dry cider
- Dry white vermouth
Substitute dry, pale sherry for rice wine, especially the premium Chinese varieties from Shaoxing. The flavour is similar enough that the dishes will not be changed noticeably.
Replace rice wine with dry white wine. The flavour is not an ideal substitute, so use white wine sparingly. Avoid oaky whites, such as buttery-tasting Chardonnays. Light, crisp mineral-tasting whites are best.
Add gin in small quantities to Chinese recipes that call for rice wine, but do not specify Shaoxing. Other Chinese rice wines can be considerably less refined than Shaoxing, and gin can be a better substitute.
Replace rice wine with apple juice or dry cider, especially in marinades or stir-fries with pork. Neither has the correct flavour, but are compatible enough with most dishes to still work and the acidity will help tenderise the meats. Dry cider can be a better substitute than white wine, in most cases.
Pour dry white vermouth as a substitute for rice wine, in dishes where its distinct herbal flavour will be an asset. This includes marinades and dipping sauces, as well as
Tips and warnings
- These are suggestions, not hard and fast rules. Try several variations, and decide for yourself which substitute works best in a given dish.
- Some rice wines, like Western cooking wines, contain significant quantities of salt. Those on reduced-sodium diets should take appropriate care, and cooks should avoid adding any extra salt or salty ingredients until the dish is finished and can be tasted.
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