If you’ve made it to the icy depths of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, your stomach is probably grumbling for some bone-warming eats. Get ready for some buttery ramen, fresh fruit, and meaty goodness.
1. Jingisukan (Lamb BBQ)
Jingisukan comes with a distinctive smell that puzzles many who have never sampled lamb before. It’s served much like the yakiniku(BBQ) dishes all around Japan but with tons more meat (a good thing).
The name comes from the Mongolian historical figure, Genghis Khan, only the Japanese pronunciation of it. This meaty dish became popular during the early 1900s when sheep were first brought to Hokkaido. During wartime, sheep were used to produce wool for military uniforms and blankets and soon enough, they were utilized for meat as well.
2. Soup Curry
Soup and curry together? The fusion may seem like a step too far, but it’s luckily not the nightmarish combo of tomato soup and green curry you may be picturing.
Imagine a thin, curry-flavored broth spiced to your liking, chock-full of chicken and veggies that’s perfect for slurping on cold winter nights. Lotus root, eggplant, and carrots are common ingredients.
Ajanta Indian Curry (Ajanta Indo Kari Ten)in Sapporo serves an authentic dish which embodies the Japanese-Indian fusion. The soup is a little thinner than other restaurants, but packs a beautifully-rich flavor, usually from beef stock. The addition of green peppers is a lovely touch.
This restaurant is loved by locals, which means you know it’s the real deal. You’ll find it south of the Sapporo city center, and dining here won’t break the bank.
With the climate being so cold around Hokkaido, the local fisheries can preserve and prepare a much fresher product than Japan’s warmer regions.
Many Japanese people even claim the ¥100 sushi bars in Hokkaido are superior to their expensive counterparts elsewhere. Such is the abundance of delicious seafood, which means that quality sushi is available almost everywhere in the prefecture!
Ikameshi is one special seafood dish from Hokkaido’s Oshima Peninsula. As you can imagine from the name which means “squid rice,” the dish sees the inside of a squid stuffed with rice and grilled. It originated during wartime when rice was at a premium, so placing it inside squid made it easier to ration.
Now it’s considered somewhat fine dining, but also available via mail order all across Japan. The most famous Ikameshi is at the obento shop at Mori Stationin southern Hokkaido.
4. Hokkaido Dairy and Ramen
The monopoly on cows in Japan has created a heavenly aura around Hokkaido’s dairy industry. Try the milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese in Hokkaido after traveling elsewhere in Japan, and you’ll realize just how high-quality their products are. Other prefectures don’t even come close.
One of the more exciting uses of Hokkaido’s dairy is the signature ramen dish, aptly named Hokkaido Butter Ramen. The miso-flavored broth comes topped with a dollop of locally-produced butter, giving it a unique, creamy taste. Available in almost all ramen shops in the prefecture and even as an instant noodle cup, there’s no escape from the regional bowl.
While ramen is the most popular incarnation of Hokkaido’s fantastic dairy, the real MVP is the local ice cream. It’s some of the most sought after in the country. A popular version of this milky treat is the lavender-flavored soft serve in Furano city.
5. Yubari King Melon
With Hokkaido’s food acclaim, you’d think they’d worship the ground the food originates from. Well, they do and Yubari King Melon is one such object of worship.
The aesthetically-pleasing melons are usually perfectly round. Elite, god-level melons have sold for around ¥5 million—a testament to how dedicated people are to this messiah of fruit.
Of course, you can find much cheaper ones—with the same smooth inside coated by a soft rind—at the supermarket.
One of the more interesting places to eat said fruit is Melon Terrace, where you can enjoy a buffet course with beautiful mountainous views around the namesake melon area, Yubari. The all-you-can-eat feast lasts for 60 minutes and includes soba noodles, fried chicken, and seasonal dishes, in addition to the succulent melon. Enjoy.
Have your sushi and eat it too, with our Famous Food in Japan series.