There has been a ramen boom in Singapore in recent years. More and more Japanese famous ramen chains have been setting up shops here, offering Hokkaido Ramen, Sapporo Ramen and such.
So as soon as we touched down at Chitose Airport, we had our first ‘Hokkaido Ramen’ at a small joint. It was soon followed by Sapporo Ramen in Sapporo the next day. By the time we had another bowl of ramen at Noboribetsu, my friend’s mother complained, ‘Ramen again? The mere mention of the word makes me sick.’ We had no choice as ramen was the most widely available meal in Hokkaido most time of the day. I tried to sample different soup base but they all tasted the same to me, whether it’s the soya broth, miso broth or pork broth. To be frank, I can find better ramen in Singapore than in Hokkaido, right down to the gooey-yolk-hard-boiled-eggs, which most ramen restaurants in Hokkaido don’t provide.
Our first dinner in Hokkaido was in a crab buffet restaurant in Sapporo, highly recommended by Lonely Planet – Ebikanigatsusen Satsup Sapporo. For 90 mins, everyone in your table must order the same buffet set and you can eat as much as possible. We had the crab-lover (4065 Yen per person) comprising king crab, snow crab and hairy crabs. We enjoyed the king crab the most. The meat was easily removed from the long legs and sweet. The hairy crab was more thorny than hairy and tasted bland. We found out that the serving of one-quarter (3 legs of each) was too much. By the middle of the meal, our fingers and stomachs were freezing from the cold meal and we wished for some warm food.
As we knew some of the meals would be provided by the hotels, we decided to vary our food where possible.
At Hakodate, we went to the market to eat sashimi lunch.
At Otaru, we decided to try BBQ beef at Gyu Kaku, which is an expensive restaurant in Singapore. Also for 90 mins for 2919 Yen, we can order any kind of meats. Unfortunately, they did not have English menu and we had to guess our way through our order, sometimes gesturing and pointing at the tummy when we wanted to order belly pork. We failed many times, and the order of pork neck came many times. Still, to my amazement, my friends would wallop it down and made another attempt to order the right ‘anatomy’. I think the waiter must also be surprised at the enormous appetite of these ladies.
In Furano, at the recommendation of my brother, whom we met at the same hotel, we went to a shabu shabu restaurant just the at back of our hotel. For 1250 yen each, we had more than a full portion of beef, vegetables and noodle. It was a cheap and wonderful meal.
At the Natulux hotel in Furano, we were given a choice of Japanese or Western breakfast set at 1250 yen. I chose the Japanese both time but the western set looks delicious too.
The buffet dinners at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel, Lake Akan Tsuruga and Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resorts were sumptuous. Noboribetsu Grand has king crabs, an exorbitant indulgence for buffet. Sashimis were aplenty and my friend would have her limitless serving of roe on rice at every meal. At Lake Akan, there was a demonstration during breakfast , or performance more likely, on how they made glutinous rice cake. An interesting display of strength and rhythm.
While we stayed at the first two hotels for only one night, we spent two nights at Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga and I was disappointed that they served the same menu buffets. I wouldn’t know what to eat by the third day if I had stayed longer. On top of the buffet, they had two specially prepared meal served at the table. The colourful array of desserts were delicious in sight and taste.
Other than the main meals, we also indulged in pastry and treats which have made a name in Hokkaido.
We were told we must try the cheese cake in Le Tao at Otaru. We did and yes, I agree this must not be missed.
At Furano, the pastry to die for is custard bun at Furano Delice, creamy fragrant custard encased in crispy casing. There were only three left when we arrived and we had to share around.
Japanese food is one of my favourite cuisines and travelling in Japan is all the more enjoyable because of the food. My travelling partners would certainly agree.
(I travelled to Germany last December and unless one loves bread and sausages, there isn’t really much to look forward to during meal times. Of course there is the pork knuckles and we had that three days in a row! No disrespect to the Germans intended. )