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Hokkaido: 10 Local Foods to Try During Your Travels
Hokkaido's food, culture and climate are quite different from Japan's main island, providing many new things to enjoy. In this article, we introduce ten dishes, snacks and drinks to try when you visit Japan's popular ski and onsen region.
Hokkaido is Japan's most northern island and has its own culture and climate, which is reflected in the region's food. When visiting, it is definitely worth exploring the local cuisine.
1. Seafood - Some of the Freshest in Japan
The most famous food to try in Hokkaido is probably the fresh seafood. The water surrounding the coast of Hokkaido seems to produce extremely rich-tasting fish.
Ikura, or salmon roe, is something everyone should experience at least once when visiting Hokkaido. The salmon roe is so fresh that it melts in your mouth. Ikura don, or salmon roe bowl, is a popular way to eat it.
Other must-try seafood items in Hokkaido include grilled atka mackerel, huge Japanese crabs and sea urchin, also known as uni. Sea urchin is an acquired taste, but it is definitely worth trying. Hokkaido's sea urchin is incredibly fresh, and tastes completely different from the sea urchin available at normal sushi chains.
A great place to enjoy Hokkaido's delicious seafood in Sapporo is Kaiyotei in Sapporo.
2. Zangi - Hokkaido's Famous Fried Chicken
Zangi is Hokkaido's version of karaage, or Japanese fried chicken. Zangi pieces are usually larger than regular karaage, which makes them nice and juicy. The chicken is flavored with a special spice mixture that differs amongst family recipes.
You can get zangi in other places in Japan if you go to Hokkaido-themed restaurants or izakaya such as NARUTO KITCHEN, which originated in Hokkaido. However, with an abundance of farmland and green fields, Hokkaido's chicken is extremely delicious and juicy, so it should be put on the must-try list when visiting.
3. Jingisukan - Juicy Barbecue Lamb
Jingisukan is Hokkaido's version of yakiniku, a grilled meat dish popular in Japan. It is a traditional grilled mutton dish with vegetables.
The name is pronounced in the the same way as that of the famous Mongolian leader Genghis Khan. It is said that it was named in this way due to the belief that Mongolian soldiers would eat lamb as their preferred meat.
4. Buta Don - Outstanding Pork Bowl
While buta don, or pork bowl, can be found all over Japan, it is believed to have originated in Hokkaido. It consists of a bowl of rice topped with pork simmered in a sweet sauce. It also often includes some green peas as a topping.
Hokkaido's buta don is famous for its thick, juicy pork slices. Some Hokkaido pork bowls even contain more meat than rice. If you are a meat lover, make sure to try it!
5. Ishikari Nabe - Miso-based Seafood Hot Pot
Nabe, or hot pot, is perfect during the colder months. As Hokkaido is the coldest part of Japan, nabe is an extremely popular dish in the region.
Ishikari Nabe is a typical hot pot meal originating in Hokkaido. Traditionally it combines delicious fresh local salmon and vegetables, boiled in a kelp and miso stock. This dish is creamy and slightly sweet, and is filled with vitamins to fight off the cold.
6. Soup Curry - A Local Favorite
Curry is popular all over Japan, and Japanese curry has a very distinctive taste. Soup curry is exactly what it sounds like: a soupy Japanese curry!
This curry is served alongside a separate bowl of rice; they are not served together in one dish. It is filled with delicious local produce and meat or fish, and is one of Hokkaido's soul foods.
7. Hokkaido Ramen - Different in Every City
Hokkaido is somewhat of a ramen capital. Especially in the capital Sapporo, you can barely walk a small distance without finding a ramen store. Miso-based ramen is the most popular version in Sapporo.
Every major city in Hokkaido has its own style of ramen. Most of the region's ramen dishes use locally-sourced ingredients and even fish, crab or lobster.
8. Hokkaido's Dairy Products - Flavorful and Rich
The vast area of Hokkaido lends itself to farming. Milk and butter from Hokkaido are renowned all over Japan for quality and taste, and sweets often mention being made with Hokkaido milk to imply richness and delicious taste.
You cannot go wrong with whatever dairy treat you want to try in Hokkaido. The milk is rich and creamy, ice cream extremely flavorful, and Chitose airport even sells "gyunyu (milk) castella cake", that almost tastes creamy.
Picture from Hokkaido Souvenirs - 8 Delicious Snacks
Made with local, rich butter, Marusei Butter Sandwich is one of Hokkaido's most famous souvenirs. White chocolate and cream using 100% Hokkaido raw milk butter and juicy raisins are sandwiched between two flavorful cookies.
9. Yubari Melon - Famous All Over Japan
Cantaloupe (or just melon as it is known in Japan) is an extremely popular fruit, and Yubari in Hokkaido is a small town that is best-known for its high-quality melon.
All melons from Hokkaido are delicious, but Yubari melon is known to be especially juicy and flavorful. People from all over Asia will even buy whole boxes of Yubari melon to take home.
10. Local Hokkaido Beer - Refreshing and Unique
Beer is not technically food, but it needs to be mentioned as something to try in Hokkaido. Sapporo beer is one of the biggest brand names in Japan. The fresh produce and clean spring water of Hokkaido make the beer crisp and delicious.
In addition to Sapporo, many other areas of Hokkaido brew beer. One of the most famous beers is the Abashiri Drift Ice Draft, which is blue in color and slightly icy in taste. It is produced in a local brewery in Abashiri, Hokkaido.
If beer is not your preference, local wine from Hokkaido is also very tasty. There is even wine available with a lavender fragrance from the Furano area.
If You Visit Hokkaido, Enjoy the Local Food
Food in Hokkaido is incredibly tasty and rich. Hokkaido's cuisine includes a lot of fresh, local ingredients and developed as a result of the area's colder climate, making it quite different when compared to food from other parts of the country.
The region should definitely be a stop on any foodie's list when visiting Japan!
Prepare for Your Hokkaido Trip! Car Rentals, Accommodations, and WiFi
Using a rental car is very convenient for traveling around Hokkaido. MATCHA's readers can use a 10% discount voucher for renting a car from Nippon Rent-a-Car, one of the largest rental car services in Japan.
Please be careful, however, when driving in Hokkaido in winter. This region sees severe snowfall every year and there might be frost on the roads. Because of the snow, the road might not be visible. In other words, please also consider traveling by train in combination with using a rental car.
If you've already booked your tickets for Hokkaido, you'll also probably want to look for hotels.
You might also need a WiFi connection since the places that offer free internet connections in Japan are still quite limited. Renting a pocket WiFi is very convenient for travelers. Using the 20% discount voucher below to rent Ninja-WiFi, one of the most popular portable internet services in Japan.
Enjoy planning your trip and have a great time in Hokkaido!
Main image by Pixta
I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and am living in Tokyo, Japan since 2008. I am native in German and English. I am a cat-mom to three rescue cats and I have a deep love for 90s rock music, kickboxing, history, chocolate and cookie dough, anything pistachio flavored, cats and bats, dragons and vampires and all things creepy-cute. My favorite book author is Anne Rice. My favorite band is LUNA SEA. My most recommended Japanese movie is 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence', featuring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto.