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!

Akita Prefecture's Specialty Dish Kiritanpo

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:

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - Pounding the Rice

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.

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish

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.)

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - Grilling the Kiritanpo

You’re going to leave them for a while, until the rice browns nicely and it becomes a bit crispy.

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - Kiritanpo with Miso Sauce

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.

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - A Stack of Kiritanpo

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!

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - Kiritanpo and Tea

I definitely recommend drinking tea while eating your kiritanpo. It pairs together so well!

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish - Kiritanpo with Sauce

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.

Kiritanpo: Akita's Specialty Dish
FoodMorgan MJapan, Cooking