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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Things to Eat and Drink in Hokkaido

Eating local food is always an integral part of all my travels. These are the things that I find, that I should try in Hokkaido, maybe you can try to tick off from this list too! I tried 10 out of 11 here.

1. Seafood of all sorts
2. Salmon and Ikuro
3. Soup Curry
4. Wagyu
5. Ramen
6. Soft Serve Ice cream /Sofuto
7. Melon
8. Fresh Milk and dairy products
9. Pastry
10. Special beers and beverages
11. Jingisukan

1. Seafood!

It's sacrilegious to visit Hokkaido and not eat seafood, unless you are allergic to it. Different season has different catches. Summer is the best time for sea urchin, Winter for Cod, Salmon and Saury in Autumn and different crabs throughout the year. Seafood is not only found at the markets, but it is easily available everywhere, and my favourite places to have seafood is at Izakaya. Izakaya is tavern in Japanese, where you can have dinner and drinks. Seafood prices in the north is way cheaper than in Sapporo. I haven't been to Hakodate, so I don't know whether it could be cheaper.

Seafood in Hokkaido isn't eaten only for lunch or dinner, it can also be for breakfast. So, if one is a seafood lover, it is really possible to eat seafood the whole day long.

Useful links: Hokkaido Food Library - Seafood

Hanasaki Crabs at Kushiro Market

Grilled Sea Urchin at Sapporo Autumn Fest

Okhotsk Set sushi at Abashiri

Moyoro Pot at Abashiri

Grilled Kinki at Abariya, Kushiro

Grilled Senpoushi Oysters at Abariya, Kushiro

Sashimi at Kushiro
Grilled Herring at Otaru

2. Salmon and Salmon Eggs  (Ikuro)

In Japan, salmon isn't found everywhere. But it is found naturally in Hokkaido and Hokkaido produces 80% of the salmon in Japan. Autumn is the time when salmon return to the rivers in Hokkaido to spawn and it's also the time when major salmon fishing is carried out. Although the peak period is in Autumn, salmon is available throughout the year. The salmon we eat in Malaysia is mostly farmed and not wild, so take this chance and eat wild salmon that is nourished by the sea and not by pellets in the farm.

The ikuro in Hokkaido taste fresh is not too salty, unlike those imported into Malaysia, that is very salty. And if one can get ultra fresh ones, like the one I had in the Okhotsk set, it wasn't salty at all, but full of umami.

Useful links: Hokkaido Food Library - Salmon

Breakfast rice bowl with Ikuro and other seafood at Kushiro

Grilled Salmon Belly for breakfast at Kushiro

Lots of Ikuro at Kushiro Market

Raw Salmon at Kushiro Market

3. Soup Curry

Many tend to skip this dish that is invented in Sapporo. It's quite a pity that this dish doesn't get much attention from tourists. It's nothing like the usual Japanese curry, but it's soupy and can be quite spicy, depending on the heat level that one requests. Vegetable lovers will truly enjoy this dish because it's packed with lots of it. Depending on the restaurant, some offer cococnut, soy milk or tomato soup base for the curry. So, have a few meals and try a few soup base.

We had it once at Samurai Soup curry and we loved it.

Useful links:
Tsunagu 20 Soup Curry Recommendations
Tabelog Hokaido Soup Curry Restaurants (check out the rating from locals)

Chicken, tomato base

Pork, coconut base

4. Wagyu

Although Kobe or Matsusaka Wagyu seems to be the most popular, Hokkaido is the place where the calves are born and shipped to Kobe and Matsusaka to be raised. There are many farms in Hokkaido that produces wagyu beef. Once I've tried the Wagyu here, it was hard to go back to so called Wagyu imported into Malaysia from other countries. The quality of Wagyu served at restaurants here are so good.

Useful link: Beef from Hokkaido

Wagyu skewers from Sapporo Autumn Fest

Wagyu Sashimi from Kumagera, Furano.
Raw beef that melts in the mouth

Wagyu Yakiniku at Tokuju, Sapporo

5. Ramen

Ramen seems to be common everywhere in Japan, but Hokkaido itself has 3 different styles that they call their own. Asahikawa has the lard toppped soy sauce broth ramen for the cold winter nights, Sapporo is the place where miso ramen started, and Hakodate is where it's famous for clear broth ramen. Ramen places are everywhere and is one the things you can easily find if you get hungry late at night. Some restaurants open until 5am, especially those near entertainment areas. It's not easy to find a restaurant to be open before 11am.  I had Sapporo's Miso and Asahikawa's Shoyu. Too bad I didn't try Hakodate's salt version.

Useful link:
4 Types of Hokkaido Ramen
Tabelog: Hokkaido Ramen Restaurants (check out the rating from locals)

Sapporo Miso Ramen @ Sumire

Salt Ramen from Asahikawa

Asahikawa Shoyu Ramen

6. Soft Serve Ice Cream / Sofuto

There's soft serve here there, in so many places and most of the time, they do offer something special from their region. In Furano, there's melon and lavender flavours, in Lake Kussharo there's Bamboo Grass flavour, in Abashiri there's a salted caramel ice cream made with Okhotsk salt. Even regular vanilla soft serve tastes divine because of Hokkaido's milk. Each cone is priced from 250yen to 300yen, depending on places.

I had one cone a day..... sometimes 2... LOL.

Salted Caramel with Okhotsk salt at Abashiri

Bamboo Grass flavour ice cream 

Milk Soft Serve with Coffee Jelly

7. Melon

Hokkaido produces the sweetest melons in all of Japan. It is utterly sweet! So sweet that my husband and I question whether it's all natural, because it is really very sweet. Melons are in season in Summer, but are available at other times too. Besides fresh melons, there are lots of melon products in Hokkaido, from jellies and cakes to Pocky and Kitkat. Price for one slice is around 300yen.

Useful link : Hokkaido Food Library : Melon

Fresh melon and melon soft serve at Tomita Melon

Melon products to be brought home

8. Fresh milk and other dairy products.

Hokkaido is dairy land of Japan! The milk produced in Hokkaido is very delicious and world renowned, even Haagen Daz sources their milk from Hokkaido, specifically from Betsukai (North East) ! During my trip here, my husband and I drank almost one litre of milk a day. Try to get milk with the Hokkaido island or 北海道 printed on the carton, if you can't read the labels. This way, you can't go wrong with it. Milk produced from different regions taste different. And if the farms themselves market their own milk, try it, they also taste different from major Hokkaido milk brands. Meiji's milk do not state their farm sources on the packaging.

My favourite milk is from Seicomart, under the brand of Secoma. I tried the one in light green packaging and it was ultra tasty. The aroma of the milk was something I never had before. It had the fragrance of grass.  Seicomart's milk is produced in the north west of Hokkaido, where the human population is very very low.

Tokachi's milk 十勝 is more commonly found on Hokkaido. Tasty but not my favourite.
Some of my friends will only buy milk in glass bottles, but I didn't come across them.
I tried a small farm milk in Kushiro's market, and I wasn't impressed.
The price of milk in Hokkaido is surprisingly lower than or similar with Malaysia.

9. Pastry

There are so many famous pastries in Hokkaido. If one were to head to Otaru, do not miss out Le Tao, their cheesecakes and desserts are very delicious. Kitakaro makes fabulous cream puffs and Kinotoya's cheese tarts are to die for. Rokkatei is famous for many things and drop in for a pastry and get a free coffee.

Kinotoya Cheese Tarts

Rokkatei pastries

Le Tao cheesecake set

Kitakaro Cream Puffs

10. Special Beers and beverages

Sapporo has special beers. We tried Abashiri Blue, Sapporo Classic (Only for sale in Hokkaido) and many other seasonal beers.

There is also Furano Lavender tea and some other beverages that comes unsweetened if you don't drink beer.
Abashiri blue beer, only available in North Hokkaido

Sapporo Classic is only available at Hokkaido, Seasonal beer and alcohol free beer 0%.

2L bottle 93yen is cheaper than 500ml 100yen, don't know why.

11. Jingisukan.

Jingisukan or Genghis Khan is mutton BBQ on a convex metal plate. Although Jingisukan is very popular in Hokkaido, most of the lamb and mutton is imported, and not locally produced. It's not easy to find local Hokkaido lamb. I didn't try this dish on my trip, because my eating schedule was packed to the max. There wasn't any slot to fit it in. LOL.

Next time ya, next time I will eat ya Jingisukan!

Hokkaido Early Autumn Road Trip 2016

1. Planning the trip - 9 things to think of
2. Driving in Hokkaido - 9 points to consider
3. Part 1 - Sapporo
4. Part 2 - Furano and Biei 
5. Part 3 - Asahikawa and Sounkyo
6. Part 4 - Abashiri
7. Part 5 - Teshikaga (Kussharo, Mashu, Mount Iou)
8. Part 6 - Kushiro
9. Part 7 - Obihiro and Tokachi Subprefecture
10. Part 8 - Yoichi and Otaru
11. Part 9 - Sapporo again and going home.
12. Hotels we stayed in Hokkaido
13. Shopping in Hokkaido
14. Things to Eat and Drink in Hokkaido


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