When in Hokkaido, ramen is a must-have delicacy regardless of the season of your visit. Among the different styles of Hokkaido ramen, the top three types are widely regarded to be those from Sapporo, Hakodate, and Asahikawa, which have their unique characteristics. Nonetheless, some common traits among them include the use of curly noodles, except in Hakodate which is more inclined towards straight noodles and thick soups with a lot of oil or lard used due to the freezing climate and the need to keep the ramen and soup from becoming cold quickly. Standard toppings usually include spring onions, bamboo shoots, and chashu, although local produce such as corn, butter, crab, scallops, and oysters may also be added to seafood-based ramen or the pricier versions.
Here are some key characteristics of the top three ramen styles in Hokkaido:
1. Sapporo ramen (札幌ラーメン)
- mainly uses curly noodles of medium thickness
- miso soup usually made from vegetables fried with lard and garlic, plus pork bone soup
- Started as a shio (salt)-based noodle soup made by Chinese chefs but after World War II, the repatriates coming back from Manchuria brought about the popularity of the shoyu (soy sauce) version. Subsequently, the miso version became Sapporo’s signature style.
2. Hakodate ramen (函館ラーメン)
- mainly uses straight and thin noodles
- shio soup made from clear pork bone soup
- tends to have lesser oil content
- There are comparatively fewer ramen specialty restaurants in Hakodate as the dish is largely offered in Chinese restaurants.
3. Asahikawa ramen (旭川ラーメン)
- mainly uses curly noodles of thin or middle thickness
- uses shoyu soup which usually features a double soup base mixing seafood with pork bones or chicken bones with vegetables; miso may be used at times to elevate the sweetness of the soup but it is a different taste compared to Sapporo’s version
- tends to be oilier with the hot oil poured onto the soup so that an oil film covers the soup and noodles to prevent it from cooling too quickly, especially during winter when temperatures are usually below freezing point
- used to feature a lighter taste with a clear soup before World War II but the shoyu version became widely popular after the war
When you are faced with too many choices and too little time to savor these different types of ramen, why not head to the following places to solve this delicious dilemma? You can try various styles of ramen under one roof which can be especially convenient when the weather elements are not in your favor i.e. too hot or too cold. You also wouldn’t have to keep switching from one restaurant to another just to try their different offerings if they are located far away from each other.
Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho is an alleyway with a nostalgic charm which is well known as the birthplace of Sapporo’s miso ramen. It started off with eight shops back in 1951 and was then known by the name Kouraku Ramen Meitengai (公楽ラーメン名店街).
At its present location in Susukino which has become a popular tourist spot, there are 17 ramen shops featuring a variety of ramen from established names such as Shirakaba Sansou (白樺山荘 – Japanese only), Rairaiken (来々軒 – Japanese only) that boasts the largest chashu slices here, Ichikura (一蔵 – Japanese only) which was listed on the 2012 Michelin Hokkaido Guide, and Shimijimi (しみじみ – Japanese only) whose soup base is made from clams in Abashiri.
Note, though, that there is another ramen hotspot with a similar name i.e. Shin Ramen Yokocho (新ラーメン横丁) located nearby, but the two are not related at all. Shin Ramen Yokocho has a smaller number of shops and is located within the N. Grande Building 1 along the main road once you leave the subway station exit, while Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho is located on the first floor of the No. 3 Green Building. Both places can be accessed from the No. 3 exit of Susukino Station on the Namboku Line (南北線), or from the No. 4 exit on the Toho Line (東豊線) so make sure that you are going to the correct place.
Sapporo Ramen Republic was opened on 1 October 2004 and is located on the 10th floor of Esta, which is linked to JR Sapporo Station. The theme of this place with a nostalgic Showa 30s-era decor is “the frontier of Northern ramen,” and it was chosen by the Hokkaido residents to be a Hokkaido Heritage Asset in October 2001.
Eight famous ramen brands from Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru, Obihiro, and Asahikawa are gathered here so you can enjoy these different types of ramen under one roof with ease. To get a feel of what’s on offer, you can view the official promotional video above.
Besides being able to have your fill of delicious ramen, you can also buy ramen souvenirs to replicate the same taste at home or give away to your friends and family members. Last but not least, customers can choose their favorites by voting for them in the Ramen King contest.
Note that the opening hours of this place are from 11 AM to 10 PM but operation hours of the individual shops differ, so please check this on the official website before your visit. Cash or electronic money should be used for the transactions here as credit cards are only accepted at the souvenir shop.
The Asahikawa Ramen Village was established in August 1996 with the intention of promoting the local ramen culture nationwide and internationally. There are eight ramen brands here such as Santouka (山頭火) and Baikoken (梅光軒) which already have an international presence, and Aoba (青葉) which has been around since 1947.
Located within the shopping center Powers, you can get here from the JR Asahikawa Station in 20 minutes by car. Opening hours are from 11 AM to 8 PM every day. If you are looking for the best of Asahikawa ramen under one roof, this place is just right for you!
Now that you’ve read about the key styles of Hokkaido ramen and the best places to savor them in one go, how about including these hotspots in your itinerary next time?