By Jeremy Yap
After spending time in the kingdom of snow in Akita, the local speciality of Kiritanpo, is perhaps the perfect winter food to warm you up.
There are many different stories explaining the origin of this special cuisine, the most commonly known one is that lumberjacks and hunters in the past wrapped leftover rice on sticks (traditionally skewers made from Japanese Cedar) so that the rice could be preserved for later. Akita’s ancestors used this method to preserve their precious rice. This form of cooking has survived over history and is now an important part of Akita’s local cuisine.
There are different ways to prepare Kiritanpo. The most traditional way is to toast the rice skewers over an open hearth as you can see in many traditional restaurants around Akita. After the surface of the rice sticks has caramelised and become nice and crispy, they can be served with sweet miso. If you prefer something more heart-warming, Kiritanpo can also be eaten as a dumpling served in a hot soup, in a way similar to shabu-shabu (Japanese hotpot), together with fresh local vegetables and meat.
In traditional Akita restaurants, the Kiritanpo soup is freshly prepared in front of your eyes, with friendly local Akita waitresses adding in the ingredients while sharing a few jokes, it is the perfect local experience. To accompany your Kiritanpo soup you could choose to try some warming local Akita sake, or to try some special Akita vegetables. Be warned, the flavor might not be to everyone's taste, but the mysterious Akita vegetable tempura is an unmissable regional exclusive.
Kiritanpo is the perfect food to share amongst friends, but solo travellers can also enjoy its flavor in a smaller portion. Have a pint of cold and crispy lager with your Kiritanpo dishes and have an unforgettable night!
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