From delicious seafood to abundant farm produces, Hokkaido is a real paradise for food enthusiasts and undoubtedly the highlight of your travel. Traditional local cuisine is based on using fresh ingredients and simple cooking. Hokkaido’s regional dishes (gotouchi gurume) are tasty and creative.
Fish & Seafood
Surrounded by three oceans, Hokkaido is a paradise for seafood. You will find fresh fish at the markets, souvenir shops, sushi restaurants and izakaya, from where it emerged sashimi (刺身: sliced raw fish), grilled, boiled or smoked. Keep in mind that most raw salmon (サーモン) and taraba-gani (king crabs: タラバガニ) are imported.
The Best Kinds of Seafood to Eat
Sushi & Kaisen-don
It is hard to leave Hokkaido without try sushi (寿司/寿し/鮨: raw fish on or rolled vinegared rice). Toppings are called neta. Commonly an average price of sushi plate (10 or 12 pieces) run from ¥2000 at the basic sushi restaurant.
Hokkaido has a lot of family- and budget-friendly kaiten-zushi (回転寿司: conveyor belt chain sushi restaurants) in major cities. You can easily choice a sushi plate, order from staff or digital menu if you don’t speak Japanese. Otherwise, most local supermarkets selling affordable sushi set from around ¥600 to ¥1500.
Kaisen-don (海鮮丼: seafood bowl) is served in many seafood markets and sushi spots in Hokkaido. An average price of kaisen-don run from ¥2000 to ¥4000. Popular seafood bowls are uni-don (うに丼/ウニ丼: sea urchin on rice) and ikura-don (いくら丼/イクラ丼: salmon roe on rice) anywhere.
Traditional Ainu cuisine is seriously worth trying, which often cooked with local deer, salmon, vegetables, mountain herbs, nuts and grain. The meal is served in a few restaurants in Ainu kotan (village) and Sapporo. You might be able to try the following cuisine:
Ohaw (オハウ): Savory soup with dried fish (salmon), vegetables and mountain herbs.
Rataskep (ラタシケプ): A la carte mixed food, boiled and pasted with beans, nuts and vegetables.
Sayo (サヨ): Gruel of boiled grains and water.
Satchep (サッチェプ): Dried and smoked salmon, often called sake-toba (鮭とば).
Ramen (ラーメン/拉麺: yellow wheat noodles) is widely popular in Hokkaido. Sapporo is the home of miso (みそ: soy-bean paste-flavored broth) ramen, topped with sliced green onion and roast pork. Asahikawa is famous for its shoyu (醤油) ramen, which uses pork fat and dashi (dried fish stock). Hakodate is known for its shio (塩: salt-flavored broth) ramen, topped with local seafood and seaweed.
Soba & Udon
Hokkaido is Japan’s largest soba (そば/蕎麦: buckwheat) noodles producing area. Udon (うどん: thick noodles made of wheat flour) is not popular than soba in Hokkaido, but local udon is high quality as well.
Both soba and udon are often served cold (tsumetai: zaru-soba/-udon) and hot (atatakai: kake-soba/-udon) throughout the year. High-quality noodle shops may be served teuchi (手打ち: handmade) soba or udon. Many soba-ya (蕎麦屋: soba restaurants) also serve tempura (天ぷら).
Meat Dishes, Yakiniku & Jingisukan
Local beef (牛肉: gyu-niku), pork (豚肉: buta-niku), chicken (鶏肉: tori-niku) are widely available as grilled dishes (焼肉: yakiniku). Deers (鹿肉: shika-niku) have been part of Hokkaido diet, and shika-niku cuisine is a feature of some inland restaurants.
Jingisukan (ジンギスカン/成吉思汗: Genghis Khan) is Hokkaido-style popular charcoal-grilled mutton (lamb or suffolk) barbecue, but keep in mind that most mutton meat (at least 95%) is imported from overseas. A few high-class barbecue houses serve local mutton (羊肉: hitsuji-niku). Jingisukan is also served at the most beer gardens.
Hokkaido’s yakitori (焼き鳥: charcoal-grilled meat and onion on skewers) culture is unique. Commonly yakitori is skewered chicken with salt. However Muroran and Southern Hokkaido are often served skewered pork with tare (sauce) and karashi (mustard). Bibai is home of motsu-kushi (もつ串: skewered chicken organs). All yakitori places offer beer, sake or shochu.
Fishing village’s traditional dish, chanchan-yaki (ちゃんちゃん焼き) is commonly grilled over charcoal. It is typically grilled with salmon, vegetables (green onions, cabbages and potatoes) and sauteed miso sauce. It can also be cooked with hokke (atka mackerel), scallops or squid.
Sapporo’s creative curry cuisine (スープカレー) in a bowl of soupy roux, chicken, potato, pumpkin, eggplant and carrot.
GLOSSARY: PLACES TO EAT