Iburigakko: Akita’s Smoked Pickled Daikon Radish
As you may know, “Takuan (たくあん or 沢庵)” is yellow pickled Daikon radish commonly eaten in Japan.
The Japanese pickle is said to have been created by a Zen Buddhist named “Takuan Souhou (沢庵 宗彭)” in the Edo period, about 400 years ago.
Traditionally, in the making of Takuan pickles, Daikon radish is first dried in the sun until wilted and then pickled in salted rice malt.
However, in the inland southern part of Akita Prefecture, Daikon for the pickles is dried by smoking over the open hearth “Irori (囲炉裏)” in the house.
Because the region has long winter days. The radish is then pickled in a mixture of malted rice and salt like Takuan.
The resulting pickle is called “Iburi-Zuke (いぶり漬け)” or “Iburi-Gakko (いぶりがっこ)” which is famous nationwide.
By the way, in the name of Iburigakko, “Gakko (がっこ)” is the word for pickles or “Tsukemono (漬物)” in the Akita dialect.
Vegetables other than Daikon radish, such as carrot, can also be the main ingredient of Iburizuke.
The pickle has a dark brown surface and features a distinctive taste that comes from smoking.
How to Eat
Unlike regular Takuan, Iburigakko has a smoky taste. But as with other Japanese pickles, it pairs perfectly with a warm bowl of white rice.
Additionally, Iburigakko can be the main ingredient of “Ochazuke (お茶漬け)” rice soup.
The basic recipe is like this; First, place some slices of Iburigakko on top of a bowl of steamed plain rice. Then, pour hot green tea until the rice is entirely soaked.
With Cream Cheese
Speaking of Iburigakko, cream cheese is one of the best matches. The combination is exquisite and has been a long-time favorite of the locals of Akita.