Arranging Traditional Ainu Dishes with a Modern Twist

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Clockwise from top left: “Poneohau of Yezo sika deer with tomato flavor,” “Moussi (jelly) of mountain fruits,” “Chitatapu of scallops with ruibe and kitobiro” and “Amamu rice cooked with salmon and cod, flavored with wild herbs”

In an effort to spread the charm of Ainu culture, Noriyasu Aoyama, a Sapporo-based cooking expert who was born in the city of Obihiro, Hokkaido, has developed new recipes arranged from traditional Ainu dishes.

Aoyama has modernized the “ohau,” a soup, “chitatapu,” a dish of meat and fish chopped into small pieces with a small knife, and “amamu” rice seasoned and cooked with various ingredients. He plans to hold several cooking classes for the newly developed dishes.

“They are easy for anyone to cook, so I hope people will give it a try,” he said.

Aoyama was asked to produce the recipes as part of a project by the Hokkaido prefectural government’s Ainu policy division, which promotes Ainu culture.

He invited experts of Ainu culture and organized review sessions and sampling parties for new recipes from October to November, which resulted in the creation of four dishes: “Poneohau of Yezo sika deer with tomato flavor,” “Amamu rice cooked with salmon and cod, flavored with wild herbs,” “Chitatapu of scallops with ruibe (frozen sashimi) and kitobiro” and “Moussi (jelly) of mountain fruits.”

As for the chitatapu, which can be eaten in many ways such as raw or grilled, Aoyama initially considered using only scallops. But he decided to add gyoja garlic, which is called kitobiro in the Ainu language, kelp and leeks, and garnish it with salmon roe. “I thought by mixing the various ingredients, the dish would have more of a ‘chitatapu’ flavor,” he said.

Aoyama said Ainu dishes are prepared in a way that does not waste any of the ingredients and treasures the flavors of the raw materials. “In the new recipes, I tried to use only salt for seasoning,” he said.

Cooking classes for the Ainu dishes are planned to be held in Obihiro on Jan. 24, Hakodate on Jan. 31, and Sapporo on Feb. 3 and 18. There will also be a class for children in Sapporo on Feb. 24.

Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for the allocation between 12 to 16 people. To apply, check the Kitagasu Cooking School website (  ). Aoyama’s recipes will be posted on the school’s website in February.