10 Things to Eat in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is a large prefecture in the north of Japan that’s blessed with abundant nature, rich and expansive agricultural lands, and some of the finest seafood in the country. In the winter, it’s a snow paradise with world-class skiing, snowboarding, and snow festivals. In the summertime, it’s mild and cool compared to the oppressive humidity found in the rest of Japan, with vast fields of lavender flowers. It’s no surprise then that Hokkaido is a popular tourist destination, not just for foreign visitors but for many domestic travelers.
One of the main highlights of visiting Japan’s northernmost prefecture is to enjoy the region’s meibutsu, the local specialty foodstuffs. Read on for 10 things to eat in Hokkaido.
What to Eat in Hokkaido: An Essential Food List
Crab (King Crab, Zuwaigani, Horsehair Crab)
Hokkaido boasts several premium varieties of crab, including tarabagani (king crab), zuwaigani (snow crab), and kegani (horsehair crab), all available at an attractive price. Specialty shops in Hokkaido boil up succulent crab freshly caught from the ocean, and Hokkaido crab shipped straight to your front door is one of the top holiday gifts in Japan. The different varieties of crab can be eaten in an assortment of ways, such as kani nabe (Japanese hotpot), served with rice kani meshi, as nigiri neta (topping), and in miso soup.
Hokkaido specializes in two types of uni, or sea urchin. One is the Bafun uni, which has a rich flavor, creamy texture, and intense orange hue. The other is Murasaki uni, which has a lighter yellow color, more delicate texture, and gently sweet flavor. The uni found in Hokkaido is some of the freshest on the planet and fetches a premium market price, especially when sold outside of the prefecture. However, the most affordable uni can be enjoyed within in Hokkaido itself. Uni is eaten in a myriad of ways, from a topping for sushi to ingredient in pasta sauce.
Jingisukan (Genghis Khan)
Jingisukan, or “Genghis Khan”, is a type of barbecue dish from Hokkaido that features lamb grilled together with vegetables such as kabocha pumpkin and sliced cabbage, and a spicy soy-based sauce. The dish is named after the famous Mongolian ruler due to the helmet-shaped grill that the dish is cooked on, which many people believe evokes the image of a Mongolian warrior. Lamb and mutton are not widely eaten in other parts of Japan, so jingisukan dining offers a unique Hokkaido experience.
Ikameshi is a dish of squid (ika) stuffed with rice and simmered in a soy sauce based stock. It originated in southern Hokkaido during the food shortages of World War II when rice was scarce in Japan. Squid was plentiful at the time, so a local bento lunch vendor came up with the idea of using the squid to stretch out their rice supplies. Today, ikameshi is beloved by locals and visitors alike, and can be purchased from train station bento vendors known as “ekiben” in Hokkaido.
Soup curry is a dish of spiced Japanese curry that originated in Sapporo. It combines a curry base with a rich broth, roasted meat, fresh herbs, and plenty of vegetables. The dish is easily customized to personal preferences, from the toppings used to the spice level. This is a warm and filling soup that is packed with flavor. Enjoy it with a side of rice, which you can dip into the delicious curry-flavored broth to soak up the flavor.
Kaisendon is a type of donburi, or rice bowl, topped with fresh sashimi, seafood, and shellfish. With its world-class uni and crab, juicy scallops, and buttery ikura (salmon roe), Hokkaido is the best place to try kaisendon in Japan. Look for it from breakfast time in the fish markets of Sapporo and Hakodate.
Ishikari nabe is a hot pot dish that was invented on the shores of Ishikari River, the largest river in Hokkaido. Fishermen catching salmon at the mouth of the river were known to throw together a fish stew on the riverbank made with salmon, winter vegetables and tofu cooked in a miso broth. Today, it’s a popular local dish enjoyed by all. If you’re wondering what to eat in Hokkaido during the wintertime when temperatures are below freezing, Ishikari nabe is just the thing.
Due to its spacious green pastures, Hokkaido is responsible for producing most of the dairy in Japan. The milk, butter, and other dairy items that come from Hokkaido prefecture are highly prized for their flavor and quality. Be sure to try rich natural yoghurt, high-quality soft-cheeses, and the wide variety of desserts made from fresh Hokkaido cream, such as milky soft-serve ice cream, which comes in a range of flavors from traditional vanilla and chocolate, to more unusual flavors like wasabi and squid ink.
Hokkaido’s yubari melon is one of the most expensive fruit in the world. Grown in greenhouses, it’s recognizable for its thick raised webbing, blemish-free surface, perfectly round shape, and intense melon flavor balanced with a gentle sweetness. Melons in the range of 20 thousand yen and above are often given as gifts of distinction for special occasions, and the most expensive Yubari melon ever sold for 2.5 million yen.
Miso Butter Ramen
If you need warming up and looking for things to eat in Hokkaido, miso butter ramen is just the dish. A richly flavored style of ramen noodles that originated in Sapporo, it’s made with a soup base of red miso paste combined with chicken or pork bone broth. The noodles used in Sapporo ramen are thick and wavy and served slightly chewy. They’re joined by popular local ingredients like fresh Hokkaido butter and sweet corn, and even extravagant seafood toppings such as scallops and crab.
There’s Plenty of Delicious Things to Eat in Hokkaido—Freshness Guaranteed!
Whether you visit in winter and spend your days skiing or snowboarding, or visit in summer to hike mountains and kayak pristine rivers, the range of exquisite and accessible things to eat in Hokkaido means you’ll be sure to be well fed. Be sure to check out these specialty Hokkaido foods and more on your next visit. Itadakimasu!