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Taste Japan | Kiritanpo, Always Handmade
I don’t think I can ever thank JNTO enough for arranging an itinerary that goes beyond the usual touristy sights and tastes. How then would I be able to experience this warm hospitality of the locals, even learning how to make this traditional gastronomy of Akita Prefecture?
This is kiritanpo (kiri meaning cut, and tanpo meaning spear), freshly cooked rice pounded till mashed, then shaped into cylinders around cedar skewers and toasted over an open fire. Add some sweet miso sauce, then grill it, and you have yourself a hefty snack. Mash 50% of the rice and you get a rice stick. Mash 70% and you can enjoy it in a Kiritanpo Nabe with burdock, preserved vegetables and pickles. This is also a popular dish in weddings, and always cooked from scratch, hand-torn, never with knives as Japanese believe that may ‘sever or cut’ relationships!
The highlight of this cooking lesson has got to be meeting my teacher, 62-year-old Kazuko Ishigaki. She started her business much later than many entrepreneurs, only at 47. Coincidentally, the day we visited also marked 15 years of her business! Originally a farmer with apple orchards and rice fields, her love for traditional foods led her to establish businesses that will allow her to share these culinary classics in a rapidly modernising Japan that tends to gravitate towards Western influence. The gutsy lady went on to set up a small hotel and restaurant amongst other businesses.
She also served us trays of mushi-pan and we were smitten with it despite feeling stuffed with kiritanpo. Dear Kazuko Ishigaki has kindly shared her recipe with us, so we are all in for a treat! Check it out in the recipe that follows!
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