Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish
My first experience traveling abroad was my study abroad experience in college. I studied at Akita International University in Akita prefecture, Japan.
Most of the time, when I mention Akita, the only thing people recognize is the Akita dog. Akita prefecture is quite far north and extremely rural. It’s main export is rice so there are tons of rice fields!
The most famous food from Akita is called kiritanpo. Unsurprisingly, it’s made from rice. It’s a simple dish, basically just mashed rice on a stick with some sauce. Despite its simplicity, it’s delicious. And it’s easy to make!
While studying abroad, I was able to interact with the local community and I got a kiritanpo cooking lesson! I met a few local elementary students and got to make this local dish for myself.
It’s commonly eaten in nabe soup but can also just be eaten straight off the stick. In this instance, I was eating it straight off the stick!
How To Make Akita’s Famous Dish Kiritanpo:
Like I said, the key ingredient here is rice. You’re going to want to get a pestle and mortar and mash the individual grains of rice into a stickier consistency. You want it to resemble a doughy mass rather than individual grains.
With this consistency, it’ll stick together and you can shape it against a skewer or thin dowel. In this instance, we used disposable chopsticks for the interior stick.
It’s easy to get the rice to form to the stick. Don’t be afraid to handle it well. Once it’s all on, you’re going to squeeze it (or roll it if you prefer) to cover a majority of the stick evenly all over.
Usually, the kiritanpo sticks are grilled beside a fire or on a grill. Because we were working with children in this demonstration, we used an electric hotplate. (The wax paper was laid down for easy clean up.)
You’re going to leave them for a while, until the rice browns nicely and it becomes a bit crispy.
After the rice is grilled, it’s coated with a miso-based sauce. You can add as little or as much sauce as you like, depending on your personal preference.
It’s okay for your kiritanpo to be irregular. Some of ours were flat, some were very round. Some were thicker than others. It’ll all still taste good!
I definitely recommend drinking tea while eating your kiritanpo. It pairs together so well!
Here’s my finished kiritanpo! I made this one entirely myself, from rice to sauce. It’s a bit messy but I’m really proud of it because I made it all by myself!
If you get the chance to interact with locals in whatever area you’re visiting, I highly recommend it. I recommend this especially if you get the chance to do anything with food, since food is one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to learn about a local culture.