Hokkaido Feature

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Hokkaido is known for its seafood—the prefecture's name means "the Road to the Northern Sea." Shakeě or sakeě (salmon), ika (squid), uni (sea urchin), nishin (herring), and kai (shellfish) are abundant, but the real treat is the fat, sweet scallop, kai-bashira, collected from northernmost Wakkanai. The other great favorite is crab, which comes in three varieties: ke-gani (hairy crab), taraba-gani (king crab), and Nemuro's celebrated hanasaki-gani (spiny king crab)—often to be had for a reasonable price.

As for meat dishes, Hokkaido’s most famous concoction, jingisukan, is thinly sliced mutton cooked on a dome-shape griddle. The name apparently comes from the griddle's resemblance to helmets worn by Mongolian cavalry under Genghis Khan. Vegetables—usually onions, green peppers, and cabbage—are added to the sizzling mutton, and the whole mix is dipped in a tangy brown sauce.

As for Japanese "soul food," ramen is extremely popular and inexpensive; get some gyoza (pot stickers) or chahan (fried rice) with it. Local residents favor miso ramen, which uses a less-delicate variety of fermented soybean paste than miso soup. Ramen with shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce) soup base is also widely available.

Updated: 2014-02-10

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