Ramen is a dish that has been made famous around the world thanks to the careful guidance of Japanese chefs and food experts. The very chefs who cultivated this culinary masterpiece hailed from all over the small island country of Japan, and as such there are distinct ramen regions that have their own unique flavors and tastes for the same, delicious dish. We’ll be taking a look at the eighth most populated prefecture of Japan and what their take is on the popular, simple bowl of ramen.
North of the main island of Japan, the island of Hokkaido sees more snow and harsh weather than any other prefectures. They’re also home to volcanoes, hot springs, resorts for skiing and snowboarding, penguin-filled zoos, and beautiful parks filled with Japanese cherry blossoms. For those who want to travel back to the main island, there’s even an undersea railway that connects Hokkaido to Honshu.
Being Japan’s coldest region, citizens and expats living in Hokkaido have to endure ice and snow during winter as well as cool summers that don’t make it past 22C (71F). Snowfalls can be up to 11 meters (400in), but at least they don’t have to endure the same seemingly endless rainy season from June to July as the rest of the country. With all of the gorgeous snow and ice coming in yearly, Hokkaido is a popular tourist destination for those living in warmer climates. The only problem is, cold tourist and locals alike need something hot to keep them going; that’s where ramen comes into play.
Signature Hokkaido Ramen
If you know anything about ramen, you’ll know that there are four main broths of ramen commonly found across the land: salt, soy sauce, miso, and tonkotsu. Does that last one sound familiar? Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen actually originated in Hokkaido. It was in the second largest island of Japan that Japanese chefs took painstaking time and effort to boil down pork bones and fat to create the thick, creamy soup that is now a staple in most ramen restaurants and shops.
Though tonkotsu ramen originated in Hokkaido, the tradition of preparing the broth is a bit different on the island of tonkotsu’s birth. Natives prefer to add soy sauce, miso, or salt to the broth, thus changing the original recipe and creating ‘Hokkaido ramen’. It’s a common belief that Hokkaido was the first area to start experimenting with ramen due to the fact that their ports were so much closer to their Asian neighbors, and that oceanic trade routes brought them new flavors and dishes before they could reach the main island.
Along with tonkotsu ramen, Hokkaido can also proudly declare that they were the first to create miso ramen as well. In 1950, there was a small restaurant in Hokkaido called “Aji no Sanpei”. The owner decided to take the advice of others and start using miso to its full potential by infusing it into his ramen broths. After the creation of miso ramen, the dish instantly took off to be one of the standard types of ramen, both in fresh and instant varieties.
Finally, Hokkaido is also the prefecture that supposedly perfected shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. Nestled in the cold land of Asahikawa, shoyu ramen found a host of people who would do everything in their power to make the soup one of the four most popular ramen dishes in Japan. Winters in the region can get unbearable cold, which is why many believe that Hokkaido had such high stakes in trying to create flavorful, delicious broths that would warm the hearts and stomachs of ramen lovers and those seeking warmth.
All in all, Hokkaido has done much in terms of trailblazing the creation and improvements of modern day ramen. Some might consider Hokkaido to be the birthplace of traditional Japanese ramen, while others might say that they just built upon the already great taste and flavors Chinese chefs brought to Japan. One thing’s for sure: ramen made and served in Hokkaido is a must-try for anyone who wants to enjoy authentic, traditional Japanese ramen.
Best Ramen Hokkaido Offers
If you’ve read the above signature ramen dishes local to Hokkaido, you’re likely wondering where you can find any of these delicious dishes. One suggestion is to simply go to Hokkaido and walk anywhere around one of the many cities located on the island. Another suggestion is to look up a reputable restaurant online – though it’s rare to find a ramen restaurant in Hokkaido that disappoints – and go from there. We could list hundreds of places to get a hot, steaming bowl of delicious ramen in Hokkaido, but instead we’ll just focus on one ramen restaurant that has captured our ramen-loving hearts: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
With over 21 stores in Japan and 32 stores in 9 different countries, it’s hard to dive into the world of ramen without hearing something about Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Founded by a man who was fed up with the bland ramen that he tasted in other restaurants, Hitoshi Hatanaka decided to open up his own shop to provide the most tasty ramen he could create for all to enjoy. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka started with a single shop in Asahikawa, one item on their menu, and nine seats. After four months, the seats were almost never empty, and people couldn’t stop talking about the delicious tonkotsu ramen broth Hatanaka had created.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka grew into the mega-ramen empire it is today from humble beginnings. Every store uses custom bowls that were specifically ordered by the founder. The bowls are thick enough to retain the heat of the broth, which allows for patrons to enjoy every last drop of broth without it cooling past the point of perfection. The main goal of the chain is to deliver Hokkaido Ramen Santouka to the entire world so that everyone can enjoy what Hatanaka created decades ago. To that, we say, “Yes please!”
For more information and to see if they have a location near you, you can visit their website at https://www.santouka.co.jp/en/.
Hokkaido may or may not be the true birthplace of ramen, but it’s certainly the prefecture that helped to change ramen into the delicious, satisfying dish that it is today. Without the helpful guidance of revolutionary chefs like Hitoshi Hatanaka and his growing chain, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, many people might have never gotten the chance to experience the delights a mouthful of rich, tasty ramen could bring them.
If reading this has made you as hungry for ramen as it made us while writing it, then head over to our subscription page and sign up to have hand-picked Japanese instant ramen products sent directly to your door! If you’re lucky, you might even see some authentic Hokkaido instant ramen nestled in your monthly Japanese instant ramen subscription box. Order today and find out!