Mirin, from Japan, is a sweet, thick fermented liquid made from glutinous rice and specially produced for use in cooking. It should not be confused with sake and is never used for drinking.

Although mirin contains 14 per cent alcohol, its primary purpose is to bring a sweet flavour to savoury dishes, rather than make them taste boozy, and it is essential for good Japanese cooking.

Mirin is now widely available in supermarkets and speciality stores, but if you are unable to purchase it locally, sweet sherry, or sake into which you have stirred some sugar, are acceptable substitutes.

Combine with soy sauce and other flavourings for noodle dishes and classic Japanese marinades such as teriyaki and yakitori. Mirin is also used in soups, quick stews, vegetable dishes and sauces.