Winter in Hokkaido: an average of 26 degrees Fahrenheit and an annual average of 200 inches of snowfall. The northernmost of Japan’s four main islands is covered in a white blanket for months on end.
Apart from winter activities such as skiing and ice fishing, it makes the island a perfect place for winter festivals with snow and ice sculptures. To stay warm, check out the many food stalls that come with the events.
Especially in February, Hokkaido hosts a selection of impressive events. Check out, among other ones:
- Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
- Sapporo Snow Festival
- Winter Festival in Asahikawa with an ice-sculpture competition
Apart from winters and festivals Hokkaido offers great food! Enjoy these treats and drinks that will keep you warm when admiring the mind-blowing sculptures.
Read More: 10 Awesome Winter Activities in Hokkaido
1. Tarabagani (タラバガニ) – Grilled crab shell
During winter red-king crab are caught in the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk. It is one of Japan’s largest crabs, with its shell being able grow up to 25 centimeters in width.
Enjoy grilled crab legs, crab fish sausage or glorious-looking grilled crab shells.
2. Takoyaki (たこ焼き) – Octopus dumplings
A popular seafood snack in Japan is takoyaki, although usually not served as beautifully as this.
The octopus dumpling is made of a wheat-flour-based batter filled with diced ingredients such as boiled octopus, pickled ginger and scallion, and may be served with Japanese mayonnaise and powdered seaweed (called aonori) on top.
3. Satsumaimo (さつまいも) – Fried sweet potatoes
Contrary to french fries that are served with salt, fried sweet potatoes come with a sprinkling of sugar. A hit with kids, for sure.
You can also eat sweet potatoes as part of a portion of tempura – vegetables fried in batter – that may be served as a side dish with noodle soup (more on that below).
4. Hotate (ホタテ) – Grilled big scallop
Since Hokkaido is surrounded by sea, it only makes sense that seafood is a staple food. Different kinds of crab, salmon, squid, octopus, sea urchins and scallops are among the common types of seafood you can indulge in, whether from a food stall at a festival or in a luxurious restaurant downtown or along the coast.
5. Kushiyaki (串焼き) – Meat on skewers
It seemed to me that this year, skewers with different types of food grilled over a charcoal fire were the best-sold festival snacks.
Apart from the ‘tornado dog’ and crab fish sausage, the kushiyaki, skewers with meat, calf’s tongue or chicken were sold in large quantities.
The ones with chicken are also called yakitori (焼き鳥)
6. Ramen (ラーメン) – Japanese noodle soup
Udon, soba and ramen are three famous, delicious soups you will find throughout Japan, but on Hokkaido they consider Ramen a specialty.
Is there a better way to warm up than with a big bowl of hot noodles based on soy sauce (Shoyu Ramen), miso (Miso Ramen), or a salted broth (Shio Ramen)?
7. Shiitake (シイタケ)
If you love mushrooms, you will find plenty of possibilities in Japan to eat them as they cultivate a wide selection of fungus. Arguably the #1 mushroom is shiitake.
They are added to hot pot dishes, served as tempura (fried in batter) or like here: grilled with a layer of cheese.
8. Snowman Latte
By no means a typical or original drink from Japan, but when I came across it during a freezing afternoon in Sapporo with snowflakes filling the air, the Snowman Latte felt as if it belonged here.
9. Sake – Japan’s national drink
Japanese famous alcoholic drink made from rice can be drunk chilled, but also hot. In that case it should be warmed up au bain marie to prevent the alcohol from evaporating. A great way to learn more about this drink and try different kinds is to visit a brewery.
Originally published on Paste Magazine
More blog posts on Hokkaido & Japanese Food
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