best foods

Must-Try Dishes from Northern Japan

There is always something interesting waiting for guests in Hokkaido. It’s the perfect place for a winter getaway, from marvelous ice sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival to skiing off the snowy slopes. In summer, Hokkaido beckons with green alleys and a temperate climate, offering plenty of outdoor activities such as camping and fishing.

Discover Hokkaido through gastronomy

Hokkaido is also famous for its food. From year to year, this island in northern Japan has a variety of vegetables, seafood and dairy products, all of which create great Hokkaido cuisine. So, if you want to taste thick and fragrant soup or fresh seafood, come to Hokkaido!

We offer tourists who visit the island for the first time and ask “What is the most delicious in Hokkaido?” or “What dishes is Sapporo famous for?”, a list of must-try dishes from the northern part of Japan:

hakodate ramen

A popular dish in Hokkaido is hakodate ramen. It includes pieces of pork, bamboo sprouts, spinach and green onions in a salty broth with thin noodles. This dish was brought to the island by the Chinese during the Edo period and is still prepared with clear broth and thin noodles.

Now the locals call this popular dish “Chinese soba” (Chinese buckwheat noodles). A lot of fat is often added to ramen in Hokkaido due to the cold weather on the island, but since the climate in Hakodate is warmer than in other parts of Hokkaido, this dish is more dietary.

Asahikawa ramen

Asahikawa ramen is a rather oily soy sauce-based soup that combines seafood broth and meat broth. The seafood broth is made from kelp and anchovies, while the meat broth is made from pork bones and chicken, and then soy sauce is added, which gives the soup a very bright and spicy flavor.

Just before serving, a layer of bacon is added to it so that the ramen does not cool too quickly. It will warm you in cold weather in Hokkaido, and the dish itself remains hot. Asahikawa ramen is made with thin, firm, wavy noodles and topped with green onions, pork, bamboo shoots, and egg.

sapporo ramen

Sapporo ramen rounds out the top three ramen soups in Hokkaido, including hakodate ramen and asahikawa ramen. This miso-based ramen is a popular dish in Hokkaido, said to have been cooked in roadside kitchens from pork bones after the war. At first, the soup was cooked with soy sauce, until one random customer suggested adding tonjira (pork miso soup) to it.

Since then, sapporo ramen has gained immense popularity due to its delicious flavor and the nutritional benefits of miso. The soup includes a variety of soup bases, including pork bones, chicken, and seafood.

You can also add various toppings to it, among which butter is often found: this way the ramen does not cool down too quickly. Most restaurants also add signature Hokkaido-grown corn to this dish. Therefore, in the menu of many restaurants, it also appears under the name “Corn Butter Ramen”.

kushiro ramen

All adventurous and gourmets going on a food tour of Hokkaido should definitely try kushiro ramen. Kushiro is a port city in the eastern part of Hokkaido where soy sauce-based ramen is brewed with soft and elastic thin wavy noodles.

Kushiro ramen is famous for being free of any additives or preservatives. Therefore, you can only try it on the spot, and you won’t be able to take it with you as a souvenir.

The broth combines a whole string of flavors, including bonito, kelp, chicken pieces, vegetables and pork bones. The double soup base is the same as in asahikawa ramen, but the taste is drastically different.

Muroran curry ramen

Muroran curry ramen is a local ramen that can be bought at various ramen outlets and Chinese restaurants in the southwestern part of Hokkaido. It is especially popular in the city of Muroran, where it is cooked with curry-flavored noodles made from flour produced in Hokkaido. The noodles are yellow and wavy, just like sapporo ramen.

Curry paste is made from a mixture of different ingredients: vegetables, fruits, spices and pork bone soup. It gives the dish a sharpness and density, but often leaves a sweet aftertaste. Usually, pork fillet, vegetables and wakame seaweed are added as toppings.

King (Kamchatka) crab, snow crab and hairy crab

Crabs from Hokkaido are a real legend, and the king crab, snow crab and hairy crab have gained the most popularity among them.

Hairy crab is a delicacy of seafood that can be tasted all year round. Hokkaido boasts the largest catch of hairy crabs in Japan, with most of them caught in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean.

And king crabs, on the contrary, are mined mainly in the harbor of Wakkanai. This is a rare and more expensive type of crab in Hokkaido.

A variety of crab dishes can be tasted at specialty restaurants, hotel restaurants, and izakayas (bars) throughout Hokkaido. They are mostly eaten boiled, grilled or in shabu-shabu (stew). Crabs are also used to make nabe (a dish where all the ingredients are cooked in a pot), zosui (porridge), creamy croquettes, miso gratin and dim sum. These crab dishes are served with Japanese sake, which must be poured and drunk from a grilled crab shell.

Fresh sea scallop

No gastronomic journey through Hokkaido is complete without tasting scallops from Lake Saroma. This is the largest lake in Hokkaido and is the cradle of scallops, where they are caught in the largest quantities. Lake Saroma, with its mineral-rich salty waters, is the perfect place to grow large, juicy scallops. Some of them are transferred to the Sea of Okhotsk, while others remain in the lake and grow in calm water.

Adult scallops are harvested for a variety of incredibly delicious dishes. Depending on your preference, you can ask them to be char-grilled, cooked in butter, or even eaten raw as sashimi. Buy scallops and other seafood at Tokoro Michi no Ichi in Kitami City, Hokkaido and have them grilled on the spot.

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