Kiritampo is one of the most popular regional foods in Akita. It’s starting to gain traction in other regions now (I even saw a kiritampo nabe place in Tokyo!), but if you don’t know what it is, it’s basically just mashed rice on a stick that’s grilled. And it makes sense, considering that Akita itself is known for its high quality rice…
But the actual process, though it sounds simple, isn’t always so. As with any other recipe, the quality of ingredients and methods at which its cooked contribute greatly to the flavor. Luckily, Akita International University offered me a chance to go to an elementary school and learn how to make this regional delight with some locals!
As with the other AIU field trips, it was coordinated with a local school in the area. Again, we were able to work with a local JET placed at the school and see how teaching in Japan is like!
Before anything else, let’s practice good food safety habits. I donned an apron and head wrap and I felt like an elementary school student serving up lunch. Obviously, I don’t look too pleased about this.
Because the key component in this is rice, it’s important to have a bunch of the stuff ready to go. There were rice cookers full of my favorite kind of rice, Akita Komachi.
Next, you want to mash up the rice. We used ceramic bowls with textured insides (very common at a Daiso or any other home goods shops) and mashed it by hand with a wooden dowel.
We used disposable wooden chopsticks as the skewer because they’re thicker (and more readily available) than the traditional skewers. I’m not sure why they’re soaking in water in the picture though! I think it helps the rice adhere better, but don’t quote me on that.
We watched the students make a few before trying it ourselves. Basically, you scoop the rice onto the chopsticks and roughly shape it using your hands. When you’ve got it resembling a kiritampo, then you roll it out on a cutting board or any other hard surface to smooth it out and make the thickness more uniform.
Traditionally, they’re grilled using an open flame. However, because there were small children involved, and because this is an elementary school kitchen, we opted for electric hotplates instead. Putting wax paper down helped to reduce sticking.
Not pictured is what you need to do afterwards. After your kiritampo is grilled and crispy, it’s coated in a sweet shoyu sauce. Only after that can you truly enjoy it!
Though a bit hard to see, the kids made us an illustrated guide on how to make a traditional stick of kiritampo. But if you can’t make it out, don’t worry, because I’ve faithfully recreated the process in this post!