Release | Ryo Sazaki
Abashiri Champon is a local dish born after a battle of egos
“Champon” is a noodle dish well-known as a local food of Nagasaki Prefecture. It started from Nagasaki Prefecture, but different places make their original local Champon, and it has become a quite popular dish.
In fact, did you know there is a local Champon in Hokkaido, too? I will reveal the attraction of “Abashiri Champon”, the northernmost Champon in Japan, and the story of its birth.
How Abashiri Champon was born▲The president of Abashiri Champon Study Group, Mr. Ishihara.
“Abashiri Champon started from making Japan’s no.1 grilled chikuwa.” Mr. Ishihara, the president of Abashiri Champon Study Group, told me.
Members of Junior Chamber felt anxious about the decreasing amount of consuming fishcakes every year in June 2009. They created 7m 56cm big grilled chikuwa to make fishcake industry flourish. They successfully got admitted as no.1 in Japan.
However, people from Unzen City in Nagasaki Prefecture also challenged to make the no.1 grilled chikuwa, and they marked 11m 15cm. It was only after five months from Abashiri City got admitted as no.1 in Japan.
The members of Abashiri Junior Chamber got serious by knowing the fact. They wore Ainu costume and put the letter of a challenge inside the hole of chikuwa to declare the start of the war with Unzen City to decide who was the no.1 in Japan.
The fight to win “no.1 grilled chikuwa in Japan” started from a battle of egos but as they fight, Abashiri City and Unzen City established some kind of friendship between them.
One day, someone said, “it may be interesting to make Obama Champon from Unzen City with ingredients in Abashiri.” The mission from Unzen City visited Abashiri City in September 2011 and cooked the test version of Abashiri Champon.
Abashiri City and Unzen City fought each other to win at first, but it created Abashiri Champon as they exchanged their food cultures.
Because of that, Abashiri Champon Study Group does not call Abashiri Champon as a local food of Abashiri. Instead, they call it a local food of Abashiri City and Unzen City.
What does Abashiri Champon Study Group aim?The president Mr. Ishihara told me that he does not want to end Abashiri Champon as a fed or temporary local dish.
Abashiri Champon is the culmination of the history of the hard work to produce frozen fish cake in Abashiri City after the war, wills of young people who want to flourish the fishcake industry again, the battle of egos between Unzen City, and the exchange of food cultures. It is not as easy to consume it as a temporary promotion.
Abashiri Champon Study Group is working hard for dietary education to make Abashiri Champon the taste of the region. They visit nurseries to do picture-story shows, teaches at social study class in elementary schools and domestic science class in middle schools.
By doing that, they wish that people feel Abashiri Champon as something to look back when children become an adult and come back to Abashiri to enjoy Abashiri Champon.
That is what Abashiri Champon Study Group aim.
Abashiri Champon from “Izakaya Kitadori”▲People in Abashiri City loves “Izakaya Kitadori”
Abashiri Champon is available at six restaurants in Abashiri City. Of the six restaurants, I visited “Izakaya Kitadori” located in the downtown of Abashiri City.
▲Izakaya Kitadori manager Katsuhisa Yamada.
Abashiri Champon has three rules to follow: 1. Add unique elements by using ingredients from Okhotsk to the Unzen Obama Champon soup as the base, 2. Use products from either of three fishcake processing companies in Abashiri City, 3. Use the noodles made especially for Abashiri Champon by Takenaka Seimen in Abashiri City.
“The unique points of Kitadori’s Champon are crab claw, which is really an Abashiri-like ingredient, exquisite chicken thigh, and sesame chili oil.” The manager Yamada cooked Abashiri Champon as he explained.
Kitadori has many visitors not only people came after drinking but also to eat just Abashiri Champon. He told me that he feels Abashiri Champon is gaining popularity as a local dish day by day.
▲The smell of sesame chili oil makes me hungry.
As I slurp the soup, I felt various flavors of seafood from Okhotsk such as clams and snow crab from Abashiri. As it is one of the menus from an Izakaya, it has strong umami and tangles with noodles well. The spicy sesame chili oil also adds a great smell and flavor.
Abashiri Champon aims to be a local taste of Abashiri and not ending it as a fed. If you have chances to visit Abashiri City, please try Abashiri Champon.
Related Links- Abashiri Champon Study Group
Text, photo / Hokkaido Likers photo writer Ryo Sazaki