Hokkaido, located in northern-most Japan, is known for harsh winters with plenty of snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Not only that, Hokkaido’s winter is also longer than what you would experience elsewhere, from November all the way to April. To many of us living in the tropical parts of the world, that can be downright daunting. However, don’t be intimidated by the freezing winter, because there is so much to enjoy on the rugged island, particularly in the capital city of Sapporo. Besides the annual fascinating snow festival that Sapporo is known for, there is also a variety of delectable cuisines you can sink your teeth into. This article will provide a comprehensive list of top food recommendations you can feast on when on a winter holiday in Sapporo.
1. Snow crab
Due to the geographical location of Hokkaido surrounded by the cold sea, it is known as the paradise for seafood lovers. There is a wide array of seafood cuisines you can look forward to when travelling in the region. During the winter months from November to March, the snow crab (ズワイガニ, Zuwagani) tastes the most delicious. The locals love the snow crab so much that it is easy to go on a crab spree at the little restaurants located close to local fish markets.
For a scrumptious crab feast in a traditional Japanese and relaxed ambience, visit Sapporo Kani-Honke. It is a crab specialty restaurant chain established since 1967, and a crowd favourite amongst both locals and tourists. Try Kani-Honke’s specialty dish, Kanisuki, a crab hot pot served with lots of vegetables in the broth mixed with raw eggs. The sweetness of the crab essence in the hot pot is a perfect way to warm your soul in the chilly winter.
Sapporo Kani-Honke - Hokkaido Sapporo Ekimae (札幌かに本家 札幌駅前本店)
Address: 1-18 2-chome Kitasanjyo-Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City
Price: 4,400 JPY (39.20 USD) for the Kanisuki meal.
Opening Hours: 11.30am - 10pm. Closed on 31 December and 1 January.
Access: 5-minute walk from JR Sapporo Station exit 13.
Contact: +81 11-222-0018
Succulent seafood in winter is not just about the crab family. Oysters (カキ, Kaki) are also much sought after by seafood lovers in winter. As the saying goes, the best time to eat oyster is during the months containing the letter “R” in the name. This is because the months from September to April are cooler and hence more conducive for production of wild oysters. In fact, oysters are at their prime in freezing Sapporo winter.
Imagine tender juicy oysters being put in a tin can with some Japanese sake and steamed only when you place your order. One of the best places to enjoy this unique oyster dish (Kaki no Ganganyaki) in Sapporo is at Sapporo Jogai Hamayaki Center Kakigoya in the Sapporo Curb Market. Be patient and wait for about 8 minutes before you sink your teeth into the piping hot oysters fresh from the steamer. Enjoy this succulent seafood just like the way traditional fishermen enjoy them!
Sapporo Jogai Hamayaki Center Kakigoya (札幌場外 浜焼き カキ小屋)
Address: 22 Chome-1-26, Kita 11 Jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City
Price: 1,800 JPY (16 USD) for the Oyster Gan Gan Yaki set.
Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm.
Access: 5-minute walk from Nijuyonken Station.
Contact: +81 11-622-1226
Pufferfish (河豚, Fugu) may not be a Hokkaido specialty, but you can still find high quality Fugu cuisine in Sapporo. Fugu is best enjoyed from December to February in winter, because the exquisite fish is richer in fats to survive the cold. A full course meal of this high class fish can set you back by about 10,000 JPY (89 USD), but you should taste it if you have the opportunity. Try it at the popular Fukunoyatanaka (ふくの家たなか), which serves both the artistically decorated fugu-sashi and the wholesome nabe (steamboat) dish.
Address: Minami 3 Jonishi Chuo-ku, Sapporo City
Price: around 10,000 JPY (89 USD).
Opening Hours: 4pm - 11pm (last order at 10pm).
Access: 7-minute walk from Odori Station.
Contact: +81 11-242-3553
4. Genghis Khan - mutton and lamb meat barbeque
Seafood is not the only type of cuisine that Hokkaido is famous for. Genghis Khan, a style of yakiniku in which mutton and lamb meat are grilled on a round hot plate shaped like an upside-down bowl, is also another popular local specialty. While yakiniku is typically made of beef and pork, mutton and lamb meat are used in the Genghis Khan dish, alongside plenty of vegetables. It is said that mutton and lamb meat will keep your body warmer compared to eating other meats. So winter is a great time to have a barbeque feast of this cuisine together with your travel companions!
For an economical yet satisfying Genghis Khan meal, head to Genghis Khan Daruma Honten in the well known Susukino district. Established over 60 years ago, feel the true spirit of the Mongolian world the moment you step into this traditional restaurant that uses charcoal to grill the tasty meat and vegetables.
Genghis Khan Daruma Honten (成吉思汗だるま本店)
Address: Crystal bldg 1F, Minami 5 Nishi 4, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City
Price: from 735 JPY (6.50 USD).
Opening Hours: 5pm - 3am (last order at 2.30am).
Access: 5-minute walk from Susukino Station.
Contact: +81 11-552-6013
5. Soup Curry
In a city where sub-zero temperatures and snowfalls are common, a simple bowl of piping hot soup can be great comfort food. How about adding some curry to the soup? In Sapporo, enjoy the lovely marriage of fiery drinkable curry with watery soup, loaded with vegetables and meat of your choice. Usually eaten with white steamed rice, the Soup Curry is a complete meal by itself.
You will be able to find many restaurants in Sapporo serving the delightful bowl of Soup Curry. If you are lost and not sure which restaurant to try, make your way to the birthplace of this delicious dish - Magic Spice (マジックスパイス). You will not be disappointed with the addictive dish that is so smooth it glides down your throat!
Magic Spice (マジックスパイス)
Address: 6-2 Minami, 8-chome Hongodori, Shiroishi-ku, Sapporo City
Opening Hours: 11am - 3pm, 5.30pm - 10pm. Weekends and National Holidays: 11am - 10pm. Closed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Access: 5-minute walk from Nango 7 Chome Tram Station.
Contact: +81 11-552-6013
6. Miso ramen
If spicy dishes are not for you, there is the famous miso ramen, a Sapporo specialty that you can find comfort in too. This salt based thin noodles dish is the king of all ramen dishes, so don’t leave Sapporo without trying it. There are tons of ramen restaurants within the city, and you can even find narrow alleys filled with ramen specialty shops in the Tanukikoji and Susukino districts.
Vegetable lovers will be pleased with the vegetable ramen at Nanatsuki (べじそば ななつき). Choose a miso-based soup and top with different types of local vegetables for the extra crunch. As the shop is very popular, do come early so as to get a chance to taste this authentic ramen!
Nanatsuki (べじそば ななつき)
Address: 6 Chome-7-1 Minami 7 Jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City
Opening Hours: 11.30am - 4pm, 6pm - 3am.
Access: 19 metres (62 feet) from Higashi Honganji Mae Tram Station.
Contact: +81 11-213-0201
7. Sapporo beer
Last but not least, the best drink to go with all these palatable seafood, curry, ramen, meat and vegetables is none other than the reputable Sapporo beer. Sapporo beer is the oldest brand of beer in Japan, founded in 1876. You can check out the history of this famed beer and the beer-making process at the Sapporo Beer Museum housed in a former brewery from the Meiji Period. Thereafter, make your way to the Sapporo Beer Garden next door. There are a few restaurants in the garden offering all-you-can-eat mutton BBQ as well as free flow draft beer that is only available here. Dine and drink to your heart’s content!
Sapporo Beer Garden
Address: 9-2-10, Kita7Jo, Higashi-ku, Sapporo City
Price: from 4,212 JPY (37.50 USD) for All-You-Can-Eat + All-You-Can-Drink buffet.
Opening Hours: 11.30am - 10pm (last order at 9.30pm).
Access: 10-minute walk from Higashi Kuyakusho Mae Station, exit 4.
Contact: +81 120-150-550
Winter is a lovely season for a scrumptious feast
They say the best way to win a man’s heart is through his stomach. Indeed, delicious cuisines never fail to draw crowds, no matter where you go. Even in frost-biting winter, there are lots of good food to look forward to in Sapporo. Begin your culinary journey in the charming city with this top comfort winter food guide, and discover more in your search for more hidden gems. Happy feasting!
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