Japan eats: What and where to eat in Hokkaido

Kara Santos

Posted at Jan 06 2019 07:05 AM

SAPPORO -- Aside from being a great winter destination, Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan is also a great destination for foodies. This region is known for its fresh seafood, high quality dairy products and delectable sweets.

For first-time visitors to Sapporo City and beyond, here are just a few of the best eats to look out for.

Hokkaido Crab

Photo by Kara Santos

Hokkaido is well-known for its seafood, especially crabs. “Hokkaido Crab” actually refers to 4 main types of crab available throughout different seasons. There’s the dense and sweet-tasting Kegani or horsehair crab; the light flavored and expensive King crab or Tarabagani; the Zuwaigani or snow crab with meaty long legs; and Hanasakigani or Hanasaki crab, known for its sweet meat and delicious eggs found in the females.

Visitors can enjoy Hokkaido crabs in various styles from hot pot, to freshly boiled or grilled in many specialty restaurants around Japan. Crabs are also sold in markets in Hakodate, Otaru, as well as the New Chitose Airport.

Sushi

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The port city of Otaru also specializes in seafood, particularly sushi. You’ll find over 120 sushi restaurants throughout the city and a whole street dedicated just to sushi. Prices are reasonable compared to other major Japanese cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Savor seasonal Hokkaido seafood including sea urchin, squids, scallops and prawns in any of the local sushi restaurants that catches your fancy.

Otaru Sushi Street, 1 Hanazono, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido

Ramen

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No trip to Japan would be complete without downing a steaming hot bowl of ramen. Each region actually specializes in a different kind of ramen, like the miso-flavored ramen in Sapporo, the salt-flavored ramen in Hakodate and the soy sauce-flavored ramen in Asahikawa and Kushiro. Unique flavors such as curry and shrimp ramen are also popular.

Ramen Shingen, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that seats only 12 people at a time, comes highly recommended by local guides and ranks highly on online review sites. In fact, locals and tourists are willing to stand in line for 30 minutes or more, even at subzero temperatures at 10 to 11 in the evening, just to eat in this popular ramen house. You can enjoy a bowl or ramen for just ¥540 (half-size) to ¥760 (regular-size).

Ramen Shingen. 8-2 Minami 6 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido

Ishikari Hotpot

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Hotpot is one of Hokkaido’s most famous dishes and is perfect for warming up during chilly winter months. This local comfort dish which originated in the Ishikari area is made from salmon and local vegetables like cabbage in a white miso broth, garnished with Japanese pepper. Wakasaimo, a famous sweet shop in Hokkaido, offers Hokkaido set meals including Ishikari Hotpot. Their restaurant on the second level has a full-length window offering a stuning view of Lake Toya, so you can enjoy a meal with a view.

Wakasaimo, 144 Toyakoonsen, Toyako, Abuta District, Hokkaido

Soup Curry

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Sapporo is the home of Soup Curry, a curry flavored soup served with meat and vegetables. Unlike the typical thick curry dishes, this dish is made up of a light soup base with toppings. It’s served with rice on the side which is meant to be dipped into the soup. Diners can adjust the spiciness and flavor according to their preference. Soup Curry Cocoro is a homey restaurant with bestsellers like Chicken Soup Curry, 17 Vegetables Soup Curry and Seafood Soup Curry & Half Marinated Chicken.

Soup Curry Cocoro. 2-23 Nishi 4-chome, 15 Kita-ku, Sapporo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido

Wagyu Beef

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Many restaurants in Japan specialize in Wagyu (a type of high-quality cattle) raised on the vast open plains of Hokkaido. For an indulgent treat, splurge on a steak and wine dinner while in Sapporo. Cairn Annex, one of the concepts under Wagyu Restaurant Edohachi, offers teppanyaki-style meals where the chef expertly preprares the marbled steak right in front of diners. Their special courses include Wagyu beef, live abalone, shots of plum liquor, dessert of your choice and a commemorative photo. They also serve wine and local beers.

Cairn Annex, Minami 4 Jo Nishi 5-1, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido

Jingisukan (Genghis Khan)

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“Jingisukan” or Genghis Khan is mutton or lamb grilled on a special hot plate, metal skillet or grill and eaten with soy-sauce based sauce. This hearty dish is particularly popular on the northern island of Hokkaido and pairs extremely well with beer.

The Sapporo Beer Garden has several beer halls and restaurants where you can enjoy this traditional dish along with Sapporo Draft Beer, the oldest brewery in Japan. Each restaurant offers buffet, set menus and à la carte menu. For business events and fine dining, the Garden Grill offers the most sophisticated ambiance. The Garden Grill uses “grain-fed lamb” providing higher-grade lamb meat which is tender and easy to eat, along with grilled seasonal seafood and vegetables.

Sapporo Beer Garden. 9-2-10, Kita7Jo, Higashi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido

Soft-Serve Ice Cream

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With its cold climate, Hokkaido has a vibrant dairy farming industry and produces some of the best dairy products like butter, milk and cheese. Ice cream lovers are in for a real treat with the rich, creamy ice cream and soft-serve ice cream made from fresh Hokkaido milk. Must-tries include Niseko Milk Kobo, an ice cream parlor right next to a dairy farm and Yukijirushi or Snowbrand Parlor, a long-established sweets shop run by Snow Brand Meg Milk Carrying Milk, a famous milk and major milk brand in Sapporo.

Snowbrand serves 30 kinds of sweets including cakes and ice creams and parfaits including the Dream Jumbo Parfait, a gigantic serving of 45 scoops of ice cream topped with cake and fresh fruits like melon and strawberries costs. Be prepared to shell out ¥12,600 (almost P6,000) for this treat which weighs over 8 kg!

Snowbrand Parlor. 3 Chome Kita 2 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido