Hearty hot pots and soups of Tohoku, the northern prefectures
Kiritampo Hot Pot
Kiritampo is a signature specialty of Akita consisting of mashed rice wrapped around a cedar skewer which is then grilled and cut into pieces to use in a variety of local dishes. Akita’s popular winter warmer is a hot pot with Kiritampo cooked in a rich broth of the popular local Hinaidori chicken, recognised as one of Japan’s three best breeds of chicken. Kiritampo soaked in the flavoursome soup is especially delicious thanks to its juicy and chewy texture absorbing the flavours of ingredients such as leek, Japanese parsley and Hinaidori chicken.
Senbei-jiru is a local specialty of Hachinohe city and the surrounding area in Aomori. Pieces of Nanbu Senbei (a local rice cracker) and vegetables are simmered in a broth of chicken or mackerel in a hot pot. The Nanbu Senbei is specially made for use in a hot pot so as not to melt in the soup, the chewy texture resembles that of al dente pasta and is famously tempting.
Imoni is a traditional Tohoku stew of taro and meat. The traditional style of Yamagata city is a soy sauce-flavoured Imoni with taro and beef. The Yamagata Imoni Festival is Japan’s biggest Imoni festival and takes place in Yamagata each September. The festival features a massive six-metre cauldron of Imoni big enough to serve 30,000 guests. In addition to the festival, visitors can enjoy Imoni at the city’s local restaurants throughout the year. Each area in the surrounding region has its own Imoni recipe. A miso flavored Imoni with pork is the authentic style of Miyagi prefecture and the Shonai region in Yamagata.
Kozuyu is a traditional dish of soup for special occasions including weddings and funerals in the Aizu region in Fukushima. The soup is made with a variety of ingredients, the total of which should be an odd number for celebrations as this symbolises indivisibility and brings wishes for a lifetime of happiness together. The flavourful clear broth of dried scallops is elegantly served in a vermillion bowl of Aizu lacquerware. Visitors can enjoy sampling this festive dish at local specialty restaurants throughout Fukushima.
Shottsuru Hot Pot
Shottsuru Hot Pot is one of the regional specialties in Akita. Shottsuru is a local term for a fish sauce made from Hata-hata (sandfish) caught in the Oga peninsula in Akita and fermented by rubbing with salt and malted rice. The hot pot dish consists of Hata-hata, tofu and vegetables such as leek simmered in a broth of Shottsuru, which enhances the flavour of each ingredient making the soup rich and tasty.
Ichigoni is a traditional seafood soup in Hachinohe city and the surrounding area of Aomori along the Sanriku coast. The delicate soup made with fresh sea urchins and abalones is essential for special occasions and New Year celebrations. The locally produced reddish sea urchins resemble wild strawberries, giving rise to the name “Ichigoni”, meaning “stewed strawberries”. Be sure to savour a bowl of this supreme luxury filled with the refreshing flavours of the ocean!
A selection of the best rice dishes cooked with fresh local seafood
“Harako-meshi”, a local specialty of Miyagi, is a gorgeous bowl of rice cooked in a fish stock of salmon head and bones, topped with slices of poached salmon and a generous portion of local Ikura. This creation of the salmon family will fill your mouth with absolute pleasure! The locals say that the traditional dish was a favourite of Masamune Date, the founder of modern Sendai during the Edo period when it was offered to him. Salmon from the local Abukuma River is the key ingredient for Harako-meshi. Enjoy the excellent quality of these fish!
Wappa-meshi is a local specialty of Niigata featuring a round container made of thin sheets of cedar wood. The dish is prepared with rice cooked with a dashi stock made from dried bonito flakes or dried Kombu kelp, which is then placed in the special round Wappa container and topped with fresh local seafood including salmon, Ikura and crab and steamed. The rice has a delicate flavour thanks to the dashi stock which then enhances the flavour of the seafood.
Tohoku’s historic traditional cuisine
Ichinoseki’s Historic Mochi Cuisine
Ichinoseki city in Iwate and the surrounding area has a long history of Mochi (sticky rice cake) thanks to the region’s crops of excellent sticky rice. The locals say that over 300 varieties of Mochi dishes are available in the region including “Mochi Honzen” dating back to the Edo period when the Date clan ruled the region. Honzen cuisine is a formal meal served on a personal tray and “Mochi Honzen” is a multi-course meal with a variety of Mochi dishes prepared in a ritualised style. A wide range of Mochi dishes are available including sweets, savoury side dishes and fusion dishes combining Mochi with international cuisine.
Shojin cuisine is commonly practiced by Buddhist monks. In Tohoku it is associated with the Three Mountains of Dewa (Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan and Mount Yudonosan). Meals in these temples are prepared with mountain vegetables using traditional cooking methods. Visitors can sample Shojin cuisine at one of the temples’ accommodations for pilgrims and visitors known as Shukubo. Why not purify your body with some simple yet tasty and nutritious Shojin cuisine before visiting these temples?
Favourite local delicacies
A large number of restaurants specialising in beef tongue can be found along “Beef Tongue Street” at Sendai station and in Sendai’s city centre. Each restaurant has its own recipe and technique for the city’s famous grilled beef tongue, and a variety of other beef tongue dishes are available including stewed, marinated, sashimi and sushi. Enjoy the authentic grilled beef tongue and compare the flavours of each restaurant!
Towada Barayaki is a much-loved food of people living in Towada city, Aomori. Thinly sliced strips of beef and a heap of sliced onions are grilled on a cast-iron pan. The sizzling sound of beef, combined with the sweet and savoury aromas of caramelised onions and special sauce, will set your mouth watering! The sweet and spicy soy-based sauce is enhanced with locally produced garlics and apples. The dish is delicious on its own and definitely goes well with a bowl of rice!