Hokkaido holds a special allure. Other than being a snow paradise, it is also an ultimate food destination in Japan. With everything from fresh seafood, fruits, meat and dairy products, the variety of famous Hokkaido food is sure to blow you away.
If you have the chance to visit Japan’s northernmost island, make sure to try the best of what they have to offer. These Hokkaido specialties are unlike what you’ll find anywhere else in Japan, and they’re sure to delight both your heart and tummy!
1. Hokkaido crab
Perhaps the most famous Hokkaido food, the region is well known for its crabs. The quality of Hokkaido crabs are the best throughout Japan, with the top few varieties being Zuwaigani (snow crabs), Kegani (horsehair crabs), Hanasakigani (Hanasaki crab) and the premium Tarabagani (king crabs). Enjoy them in a variety of ways: sashimi, sushi, grilled, shabu-shabu and many more.
If you’re an ultimate foodie or crab fan, don’t miss out on the Nemuro Crab Festival that happens every year in September. Thousands of visitors gather to enjoy the freshest crabs at very competitive prices!
Another famous Hokkaido food is Jingisukan, which is named after the Mongol Empire ruler, Genghis Khan. It is a mutton dish cooked on a dome-shaped grill, with ridges to allow excess fat to drain away. Mutton isn’t a common meat in other parts of Japan, but in Hokkaido you will find many Jingisukan restaurants.
Even though Genghis Khan had no hand in the creation of the dish, a common belief is that Jingisukan was named due to the fact that sheep are a livestock commonly associated with Mongolia. Also, because the unique dome grill looks like a warrior’s helmet.
Jingisukan is a dish that can be enjoyed year round. Best paired with some Sapporo beer!
Hokkaido is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, and the Sea of Okhotsk. So naturally, the seafood here is some of the freshest you will find not just in Japan, but also in the world.
Be it scallops, uni, squid, oysters or fish – make sure to try them all! The best way you can enjoy an assortment of seafood is in a kaisen don. You can find the seafood bowl in many local sushi bars and restaurants, but for a local experience and top notch freshness, head to one of Hokkaido’s fish markets.
4. Ishikari nabe
Ishikari nabe is a hearty local hot pot dish and comes from the town of Ishikari. This rustic dish comes in a clay or cast iron pot and features a miso-based broth with seasonal vegetables, salmon, and tofu.
Ishikari nabe has over 130 years of history and was originally a simple fisherman’s stew that fishermen eat after fishing for salmon at the mouth of the Ishikari River. The dish is especially popular in the wintertime for obvious reasons, and most locals eat it at home a few times a week to fend off the cold.
5. Hokkaido ramen
The most popular types of Hokkaido ramen are Sapporo ramen, Asahikawa ramen, and Hakodate ramen.
Sapporo ramen is a miso-based ramen that comes with meat or seafood with vegetables, along with a knob of butter. You’ll usually also find a heap of sweet corn over the ramen to balance out the rich and savoury flavours. It’s not hard to see why Sapporo ramen has become one of the most iconic forms of ramen not just in Japan, but throughout the world.
With winters going down as low as -30°C, Asahikawa’s shoyu (soy sauce) ramen was designed with the cold in mind. The ramen features soy sauce, wavy noodles, and plenty of lard. You’ll find a thin film of oil on the surface that’s meant to trap the heat in and keep the cold out!
The unassuming Hakodate ramen might look plain next to the Sapporo and Asahikawa ramen. A light, clear shio (salt) broth bathes thin noodles and an assortment toppings – bamboo shoots, slices of pork and spring onions. It looks bland on the surface, but the broth is actually bursting with flavour.
6. Soup curry
Soup curry is a famous Hokkaido specialty and you find many restaurants serving it. Its origins goes back to 1970, when a coffee shop in Sapporo added curry to medicinal soup. It quickly became a sensation and spread throughout Hokkaido.
Soup curry usually comes with meat, local vegetables, eggs and a bowl of rice. You can also customize the dish to your liking, such as adjusting the spice level and choosing the types of ingredients and toppings.