The place I chose for the third special feature of 地気食(CHIKISHOKU, which stands for the meaning of regions, seasons, and foods), is Towada City, Aomori prefecture.
Towada City is famous for the Towada Art Center and scenic nature spots such as Oirase-keiryu (a scenic mountain stream) and is a place where has many tourists from Taiwan.
Since we were attracted to the city where is integrated nature with art, we visited some famous spots to enjoy Towada city first of all.
△Towada Art Center
△ Art square in Towada Art Center
△ Moss ball workshop at Oirase-keiryu-kan
In addition to those arts and around by full of nature, Towada city recently has been focusing on putting their efforts into the food tourism area to provide trips whose purpose is enjoying the unique food and food culture.
The most famous food in Towada City is ‘B1 Grand Prix’ award-winning “Bara Yaki”, which is a typical dish of what is called class B gourmet (dishes that are delicious, inexpensive, and provided in abundant amounts). Several shops are offering “Bara Yaki” in the city, and of course, we went to eat it.
It’s seasoned salty-sweet taste and sautéed with onions and beef ribs on a special stove. I found out it went well with rice so much! I overate unintentionally.
I agreed “Bara Yaki” was great, but we were going to focus on the local foods “Hittsumi” and “Godo” in this article.
I think most of you have hardly heard of the name of dishes (I guess even most Japanese people might not know). Therefore, I think it’s better to explain about the food history in Towada city briefly before I explain about the dishes.
In the past, this area was very poor because the soil was not suitable for agriculture. Nowadays, the city has become one of the leading agricultural areas in Japan because of soil improvement, development of agricultural technology, and unstinted efforts of the farmers, but people in the city were not able to eat rice at that time. It seemed that people covered their nutrition with flour and beans.
Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Matsuo from Travel Towada, we had the experience to cook “Hittsumi”, which is made from flour, at the izakaya restaurant “Temari” in the city. People around this area used to make this dish in the past.
The origin of the word “Hittsumi” came from “Futtsumu”, which means tearing off, in the southern dialect of Aomori Prefecture, and there is a similar dish in Taiwan. In Taiwan, you boil the dough first and then mix with the ingredients. On the other hand, when it comes to “Hittsumi”, you spread the dough thinly and drop and boil it into a pot, which has hot soup stock with many vegetables. It’s a dish makes you warm when you eat in the cold weather such as Aomori prefecture has.
During the experience, the most difficult thing for me was making the dough.
△ Mis. Komura, who is 78 years old and still working regularly.
For the beginning, I took it for granted that I could make the dough easily just to mix flour and water. But to my surprise, it took more than 30 minutes to knead the dough until it became shiny and elastic, and it caused my legs and back fatigued. Thanks to my efforts, the pot dish ‘Hittsumi Nabe’ turned out so delicious because of the combination of the soup stock from chicken and the flavor from full of vegetables melted into the kneaded dough so well.
When I held it in my mouth, I felt nostalgic as if I went back to the past.
△ Medium-strength flour is used for the dough. It can also be store-bought ‘Suiton flour’.
△The thick leek which was used for the ingredient.
△ Knead the dough until it becomes soft like your earlobe
△Tear off and drop it into the pot directly
△ It is surprisingly difficult to tear it off to the right thickness.
△ It’s done!
Finally, I met ‘Godo’ that I was looking forward to seeing the most.
Nowadays, the fermentation foods such as Miso (fermented soybean paste) and Koji (malted rice) are booming in Japan, and one of the fermentation foods, ‘Godo’ from Towada City has gradually become popular. ‘Godo’ is a family of Natto (fermented soybeans), and is added lactic acid to ferment more. However the appearance is kind of grotesque, once you eat it, you would find the taste is more refreshing than you expect. Even people who don’t like Natto might be able to eat it with the feeling to eat yogurt.
△ This is a traditional old-fashioned ‘Godo’, which has a strong sour taste. The shape of the Natto beans is almost gone.
△ This is a ‘Godo’ for beginners, which has a slightly sour taste to eat easily. The shape of the Natto beans still remaines.
In the past, people used to eat beans as a staple food in this area where rice couldn’t be grown, and each family had made their Natto. In the process of making Natto, they sometimes couldn’t make it properly. ‘Goto’ was born from the mistakes that were made through trial and error to try to eat the failed Natto. Therefore, there is no such thing as a proper recipe, and each family has different tastes and appearances. It seems that what we ate this time was a “Godo” for beginners, next time I would like to try the advanced version of ‘Godo’.
Whenever I interview for this special feature of 地気食(CHIKISHOKU), I sincerely feel that food has developed based on local life. To get to know about local food is to get to know about the culture, history, and life itself. We’d like to experience the culture, history, and the place itself through food and to share it with you all.
There is another person who helped us during this interview. It is Mis. Nakamura, a vegetable sommelier who is active mainly in Towada City.
She made arrangements for the interview I’ve already mentioned above and introduced me a lot about food-centered activities in Towada City, such as below.
->’HappyTano-café’ where has a warm atmosphere and provide foods made with safety and local ingredients.
->Mr. Kamiakito who grows apples, a specialty of Aomori in his hometown, Towada City.
->’Hatomasamune’ which is a sake brewery in Towada City.
I am supposed to introduce them later on occasion. Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for her.
△ Mis. Nakamura, who took care of us for this article.
△ There are many dishes made with local ingredients at ’HappyTano-café’, which also has the function of a community.
△Mr. SATO TAKUMI who is the chief brewer at local sake brewer ‘Hatomasamune’
△ I worked on pruning apple trees with local apple farmer Mr. Kamiakito.