Coming from the Akita prefecture in Japan, these kiritanpo celebrate one of the regions major industries: rice growing.
Supposedly kiritanpo was developed as a travel ration for hunters, keeping the fellas content as they traipsed into the mountains in search of something to kill and bring home.
This rice on a stick is held together by the process of pounding cooked rice while it’s still hot, just enough to make it sticky. Moulding the pounded rice with hands dipped in salted water helps season it before it’s put infront of coals, burnishing the surface and drying the insides at the same time.
In Akita they tend to toss it into nabe, a soup containing loads of goodies like vegetables, meats and tofu. This rehydrates and flavours the kiritanpo and gives the soup even more substance.
I haven’t gone as far as making the kiritanpo-nabe, but I have done my skewers much like how you could expect to have them at festivals in the prefecture.
A delicious glaze is made by combining white miso, sugar, soy and honey. This is generously brushed onto the kiritanpo after it gets a little colour from sitting infront of hot coals. Once the glaze is on, the kiritanpo spends a bit more time by the coals; drying out the glaze and almost fusing it to the rice.
Chomping into one is kind of delicious. First you hit the salty and sweet glaze, and then the crispy surface of the rice that gives way to a hot, chewy centre.
One thing I would definitely try next time I make them, is mix toasted sesame seeds and crushed nori through the rice before moulding it.
Recipe by Adam Liaw.