Big in Japan: A foodie’s guide to the far north

All this month, Big in Japan is on the road in Hokkaid?, Japan’s northernmost island. Join us as we take a look at the rugged wilderness, world-class skiing and remote hot springs that make this winter wonderland so justifiably famous…

The island of Hokkaid? (??????, literally North Sea Circuit) is certainly a world apart from mainland Japan. Of course, if you happen to need a bit of convincing, just look at the menu!

Eating out in Japan is always a treat, though Hokkaid? is something of a paradise for aspiring gourmands. On that note, here is a quick (and delicious) foodie’s guide to the far north.

Be sure to try the following:

A traditional dish of the Ainu, Japan’s northerly indigenous population, ruibe (?????????) is a salmon that has been left out in snow, frozen solid, sliced up sashimi style, and served with the highest available grade of soy sauce.

While it’s something akin to a fish popsicle, true chefs will only slice this delicacy with an abalone shell in fear of contaminating the flesh with a metallic taste.

Getting hungry? The list continues…

The island of Hokkaidō can experience Siberian chills, which means that locals are fond of winter-warming foods such as soups, stews and hotpots.

One of the most delicious items on the menu is ishikari-nabe (石狩鍋), a big stone pot full of chunked salmon, tofu and miso, as well as seasonal vegetables that range from potatoes and cabbage to kelp and wild leeks.

With that said, we’re partial to that heavenly concoction that is ramen (ラーメン), nature’s most perfect dish. In Hokkaidō’s capital of Sapporo, you can dig into a steamy bowl of miso-based soup noodles with all the fixings.

Since dairy cows run rampant on the island, Sapporoites are keen on garnishing their ramen with slices of butter and fresh cream. Sweet corn also goes surprisingly well with dairy-based ramen, as do steamed crab legs from Hokkaidō’s icy seas.

However, no mention of Sapporo would be complete without paying tribute to Sapporo beer (札幌ビール), that liquid gold that warms the body even as the mercury drops.

Even if you’ve tried the bottled brew while Stateside, a frothy pint straight from the source is a whole different breed of beer!

And while we’re on the subject of beer, Hokkaidō offers an extremely manly accompaniment to the drink, namely jingisu-kan (ジンギスカン).

Inspired by Ghengis Khan, everybody’s favorite Mongol warlord, jingisu-kan consists of freshly flayed strips of spring lamb that are slow roasted over hot coals, and served with onions, peppers and copious amounts of lager.

Now there’s proof positive that even barbarians are foodies at heart (^_^)

Want to learn more about Hokkaidō? Sure you do!

Tune in all this month as Big in Japan heads north and blogs from the road.

** All images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project **