Big in Japan: Advanced dishes for true sushi aficionados

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) arguably produces the finest quality sushi in all of Japan.

Before the economic bubble burst, back in the glory days of the Japanese economic machine, rich Tokyoites were known to fly back and forth to the island in a single day, just to indulge in fresh Hokkaid? sushi.

Clearly, we’re not talking about your average California roll here!

In particular, Hokkaid? is famous for a few rare delicacies, which are something along the lines of advanced dishes for true sushi aficionados.

Think you got what it takes to move beyond spicy tuna maki? Keep reading!

Here are a few advanced dishes for true sushi aficionados:

ruibe (ルイベ) A traditional dish of the Ainu, Japan’s northerly indigenous population, ruibe is salmon that has been frozen by the winter frost. Sliced with the sharp edge of an abalone shell to preserve its delicate taste, ruibe melts in the mouth like fine chocolate.

ikura (いくら) Everyone can eat salmon sushi, but salted salmon eggs are an entirely different story. While cheap ikura tastes fishy, slimy and something along the lines of ocean-flavored Jello, high-quality ikura tastes like fine sea salt, and pops in the mouth like frozen grapes.

ika-somen (いかそめん) Hokkaidō is famous for its squid, and the best way to eat this tentacled-treat is to slice it up extra fine like somen (rice noodles). Usually served with a light ponzu (citrus-soy) sauce, ika-somen is very much akin to handmade Italian vermicelli.

uni (うに) While the thought of eating sea urchin roe might not appeal to most, fresh uni from Hokkaidō’s seas is reminiscent of homemade butter. Best-served on a bowl of rice, sea urchin roe is light, creamy and slightly nutty in taste.

ramu-tataki (ラムたたき) Sapporites love their lamb, especially when it’s served alongside steins of the fresh lager that has catapulted the city to international fame. A gourmet variation of this dish is ramu-tataki, which is slices of raw lamb that have been ever so slightly braised on the edges by charcoal. Delicious.

Unfortunately, of the dishes presented here, it’s usually only possible to find salmon eggs, squid and sea urchin roe at sushi restaurants in North America. However, if you happen to find yourself in Japan, be sure to head to the far north where you can sample these advanced dishes at any quality restaurant.

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 **