One of the stranger food choice I enjoyed in Sapporo was a mixed tray of round manju cakes. I had just left the Sapporo beer museum and was ravenous, eager not to waste too much time I simple bought an array of all the flavours, chocolate custard, custard cream, creamed cheese, caramel, along with the full range of red bean, red bean jam, strained red bean jam and smashed red bean. I learnt a valuable lesson that day, manju cakes are only worth buying when still warm.
Then there was this mochi, that for some reason had no filling, it was solid, a pretty green and white pattern of solid glutinous rice dough. Eating this was an introduction to instant lethargy, I couldn’t handle more than a few bites for fear of simply falling asleep where I sat.
Sapporo afforded me a luxury of time, weather an space where it was possible to join some of the locals under the cherry blossoms for a little Hanami celebration of my own styling. I like to call it impromptu combini style, combini being the Japanese name for convenience store. This small feast involved some Sushi maki and inari, a small bottle of whiskey, some fried chicken skin from one of the market stalls and some of the tastiest ice cream ever. This ice cream was topped with a brown sugar syrup, a thin layer of mochi and had a dusting of toasted soy flour, sure it doesn’t look like much but it was the business.
It’s a bit strange to me that during 5 weeks in Japan I have not felt the craving for any western foods, perhaps that much of the Japanese flavour palate is familiar, or that many dishes have external influences. But normally I would be craving something western, rather than western my cravings in Sapporo was katsu. The chicken katsu curry my partner had was good, but no way near as good as my sausage curry, the smoked sausage great with the katsu curry sauce, I felt a little guilty for having something so easy, so simple, but I loved it.
Having an Airbnb apartment in Sapporo was a bonus, the limited cooking facilities are only equipped for some very basic cookery, but that was ok, it was all I needed to secure a culinary crime of opportunity, and just 3 ingredients. Turning some delectable Wagyu beef into breakfast steak sandwiches only required basic facilities and a little effort and yakiniku sauce. Man did the effort to reward ratio on those sandwiches skew hard towards reward, they easily made up for the thin curtains and tiny, tiny shower.
The day trip to Otaru had me back in Sapporo quite late, I had stayed in Otaru for sunset, watching the darkness settle into the sea and the sky above it from my waterside perch was a nice thing to do, but it left me tired and not too eager to drop a ton of money on an experience to forget, so I found myself ramen it again. Feeding money into a vending machine for tickets to redeem for soup from a hole in the wall Ramen joint nestled under the Sapporo main line train tracks, as I tucked into my pork broth miso ramen the muffled thundering of the trains above muffle the conversations in the small room, not that there are many, everyone is far to busy eating. On this time I lost the battle for the best ramen, my partners tonkotsu ramen was superior to mine.
These two items are worthy of praise as stellar examples of grab and go airport food the Tonkatsu curry sandwich with its punchy katsu sauce and juicy pork and the barbecue beef and cheese nikuman, the second ever western themed steam bun I have ever eaten, the large piece of tender beef was very good indeed.
My sweet tooth was satisfied at a local independent café, it was cool space, all exposed brickwork and international themed picture and research books, you could read or buy. They served basic pastas, not for me, delicious sweets and basic cocktails. I shared a Knickerbocker glory type thing that delivered some of my favourite things, green tea dusted mochi, chocolate truffles, red bean and ice cream. It was banging!
With Hokkaido being Japan’s dairy farming HQ it seems incredibly suitable a prospect to have ice cream from a local company who delivered some very interesting flavours down along Otaru’s Sakaimachi street. The soft serve ice cream appears to be a local favourite and the version they offered included so many of my favourite Japanese sweet ingredients I felt it impossible to pass up. With red bean paste, brown sugar syrup and soy bean flour dusted mochi it was truly the most Japanese ice cream ever, and it was delicious. The rockmelon syrup smoothie was really good too, with a genuine rockmelon flavour that was surprisingly fresh tasting.