The northernmost prefecture of Japan is perhaps best known for its fresh seafood, but its sumptuous cuisine extends to much more than that.
Shoga Ramen Mizuno (right) is arguably the most popular ramen shop in Asahikawa; the walls of the small but cosy restaurant are plastered with autographs from celebrities and dignitaries alike. Their most popular dish is the Shoga Ramen, which comes with smashed shoga(ginger) blended into the broth, lending the dish a spicy punch.
Menya Saimi (left) is another beloved ramen shop, located in Sapporo City. The broth served here is made with pork bones cooked over low heat for five hours, which makes it clearer and less dense than its other Sapporo counterparts. Each bowl of ramen also comes with servings of minced pork and stir-fried bean sprouts for added fragrance and texture. A serving of smashed ginger is also added atop the soup – you may dissolve it immediately into the soup, which helps cut through the grease of the char-grilled cha shu, or you can save it for later, for a refreshing twist to your meal.
Here’s a fun fact: the owner of Hachiemon Soba is not originally from Horokanai but he liked the soba from the area so much, he decided to move here to open a soba restaurant. Which was a great move, because his inventive soba creations have earned him one Hokkaido Michelin star. Some popular creations include Tentoro (cold soba paired with shrimp and vegetable tempura, topped with fresh yam) and Duck and Negi Hot Soba, which comes with pan-fried slices of duck meat and Japanese leek.
Want to taste the best of the region’s produce? Nestled in the beautiful hills of Biei, Biei Senka is great for tourists who want to stop for a spot of shopping. Just a simple stroll around the complex will instantly put you at ease, with the proliferation of fresh and dried flowers as well as the abundance of natural light. This contemporary complex comprises a farmers’ market, restaurant, cafe, and boulangerie. When you dine at the restaurant Asperges, be sure to try its signature dish – the 20-Vegetable Salad. As its name suggests, this colourful dish comes with 20 different vegetables, all freshly picked and bursting with flavour. After your meal, take sometime to visit the other outlets within the complex. The bread, pastries, and other baked goods sold at the boulangerie are all made with top-quality wheat flour from Biei. This wheat flour is the secret behind the fragrance and amazing moisture of the baked goods. Some must-buy items from the farmers’ market include the locally produced rice, potatoes, and cider. End your day with a refreshing strawberry smoothie from the cafe or an oh-so-delicious soft serve ice cream (made with Hokkaido-produced milk, of course).
Step into Magic Spice Soup and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in a restaurant in India. The two-storey restaurant is decorated with a mishmash of Hindu and Bob Marley paraphernalia, with music that sounds vaguely reggae. Given the ambience, you would think the owner is a free-spirited hippie but the truth is, Taizan Shimomura is actually a doctor’s son who was inspired to create dishes that are both delicious and healthful. Although the dish “soup curry” was created in Sapporo, it was actually inspired by the traditional Indonesian dish, Soto Ayam (spicy yellow chicken soup). Choose from 24 different toppings ? from tempura to tofu ? and six different spice levels. The soup is flavourful without being too salty, and the profusion of fresh vegetables is sure to fill your belly.
Established in 1959, this is the largest fish market in the city and it supplies fresh seafood to the 2.3 million residents of Sapporo City, as well as other parts of Japan. Some of the key differences between this central fish market and others lie in its geography. Because Hokkaido is surrounded by three bodies of water – the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, and the Sea of Okhotsk – the wholesalers have a more direct contact with the fishermen, which means they can negotiate guidelines on how to better handle the fish so as to maintain a certain standard and quality. For example, one practice is to kill the fish immediately onboard the ship and drain its blood so as to prolong its freshness. Another practice unique to Sapporo Fish Market is how the wholesalers divide tuna into four distinct pieces so that bidders can easily examine the condition of the fish.
For more heavenly baked goods, head straight to Kinotoya bakery in Sapporo City. Everything here is made with ingredients from Hokkaido, from milk to sugar to flour. Signature items include Baumkuchen, milk biscuits, and a unique concoction where a sliver of baked cheesecake is set atop a piecrust. The latter is absolutely delicious – the velvety smooth cheesecake combined with the warm and crumbly piecrust makes for an amazing amalgamation of textures in your mouth.