Warming up in Sapporo – Ramen, Soup Curry and Potatoes

Our time in Hokkaido wasn’t all about seafood and dairy. When we visited Sapporo in April, the weather ranged from about 9ºC to a chilly -2ºC, with snow still lining the footpaths. Even though we rugged up with thermals, scarves and coats, the cold weather made us search for warming, comforting foods and luckily these are in abundance here in Sapporo!

Sapporo city with the Sapporo TV Tower to the right

Hot food (and sleep) were the first things on our mind after arriving in Sapporo after an overnight flight. After checking into our hotel, we went in search of lunch. At first, we found navigating Sapporo’s underground passageways to be rather confusing as the shopping centres seem to merge into one another so before you know it, you’re in a completely different mall! Once you familiarise yourself with the shops and the direction you’re travelling, it’s much easier to figure out where you are and where you need to go.

Outside of Ramen Kyowakoku

We meandered through the shops until we came across ESTA Sapporo which I recognised as being the home of Ramen Kyowakoku or Ramen Republic (札幌ら~めん共和国). Ramen Republic is a ramen theme park that brings together ramen shops from various regions around Hokkaido, including Sapporo, Asahikawa, Hakodate, and Kushiro. The 8 shops change every depending on popular vote, so it’s a good bet that the ramen there will be pretty good.

Picture menus outside each ramen restaurant

Language barriers are no problem here as there are plenty of picture menus outside each shop. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what’s in the ramen though, so I left it to Sir D to pick a random one for us to try.

Shio ramen at Ajisai – 780JPY (approx $8 AUD)

We ended up at Ajisai, a ramen shop from Hakodate, which is known for its shio ramen. This a simple ramen dish with a salt-based broth of pork, chicken, konbu and vegetables and is clear and light. The ramen noodles are relatively straight, and come topped with slices of chashu, negi and menma (bamboo shoots).

Seabura ramen at Ajisai – 850JPY (approx $9 AUD)
Aside from the traditional types of broth, Ajisai also had some interesting ramens like squid ink ramen and seabura ramen. Seabura refers to pork back fat, and when the ramen arrives you can clearly see globules of fat floating around in the soup. This upped the richness of the light shio broth, and though it probably wasn’t healthy, it was certainly tasty! The seabura ramen also came with the usual chashu slices, menma and negi, but also had half an egg and a bit of mizuna thrown in for a fresher taste.

Susukino lights

Susukino (すすきの)is where Sapporo comes to life at night. The district plays host to many restaurants, bars, clubs and Sapporo’s red light district, as well as Ramen Yokocho or Ramen Alley (ラーメン横丁).

Ramen Yokocho (ラーメン横丁)

Ramen Yokocho dates back to the 1950s, and has about a dozen ramen shops tucked away in a narrow laneway. Most of the shops are small, seating about 12 patrons and have signs and photos plastered onto the windows of the restaurant.

Ramen restaurants inside Ramen Yokocho

The Ramen Yokocho restaurants were surprisingly empty for dinner time, so we decided to give it a miss and instead commenced our search for slow-cooked kakuni ramen at Ramen Meijinbou. We know we’ve made the right decision when we see single diners enjoying a bowl of ramen here.

Broiled kakuni shoyu ramen – 1000JPY (approx $10.50 AUD)

Sir D only had eyes for the kakuni ramen which had a huge slab of slow-cooked and broiled pork belly. We get the kakuni ramen with a shoyu broth which was quite rich in pork flavour and coats the noodles nicely. The kakuni had been cooked for so long it literally just melted in the mouth, and the ramen noodles were nice and chewy.

Miso ramen with flavoured egg – 800JPY or 1300JPY as part of the Meijinbou house set

Sapporo is known for its miso ramen, so I had to try it while we were here. Miso ramen is perfect for the cold weather, being a warm, hearty, comforting meal. The ramen at Meijinbou also comes with a seasoned egg, slices of cha shu and bamboo shoots.

Gyoza with the Meijinbou house set

We got the miso ramen as part of the Meijinbou house set which also comes with nama biru (draft beer) and gyoza.

Soup Curry Lavi

Another Sapporo specialty we tried was soup curry. We went back to ESTA Sapporo to try the soup curry at Lavi, which is a popular restaurant with queues out the door during peak meal times. Again, there were only Japanese menus so we had to decipher the options from the katakana and the pictures. Ordering soup curry turned out to be quite an easy and sequential process:

  1. Pick your soup curry
  2. Add toppings – anything from extra meat to cheese to extra vegetables to pasta and egg
  3. Choose your spice – a spice level from 0-50 (or hotter for an additional charge). Sir D went for a 5 and was starting to sweat it already!
  4. Choose your rice – select either 150g, 200g or 350g rice as a side to your curry
Pork kakuni soup curry – 1100JPY (approx $11.50 AUD)

The soup curry was less viscous than normal Japanese curry and had a different blend of curry spices which made it very fragrant. Sir D went for the kakuni pork belly soup curry while I opted for a chicken leg curry. What I loved about soup curry was that it was packed full of a variety of roasted vegetables from Hokkaido which was something I rarely saw in restaurants in Japan.

Chicken leg soup curry – 1050JPY (approx $11 AUD)

Apart from Hokkaido’s abundant farmland which makes it great for growing fresh fruit and veg, I’d heard that the cooler climate of the Hokkaido prefecture also makes it great for growing potatoes. We took this opportunity to eat the humble spud while we were here – most of them they were simply baked and served hot with butter, salt and pepper, but we also tried it on a stick at a yakitori place (also with lots of butter).

Baked Hokkaido potato with butter, salt and pepper
Yakitori potato! With extra butter

The Hokkaido potato also makes several appearances in the snack food aisles of convenience stores and supermarkets. One line of potato chip snacks called Potato Farm uses potatoes specific to the Hokkaido region and are only sold in Hokkaido, so we stocked up on Potato Farm products at New Chitose Airport before leaving. These are some seriously good potato chips, and after eating them upon our return home, we wished we’d bought more!

Hokkaido premium potato chips by Potato Farm! Seriously the most delicious chips ever

But not to worry, we bought heaps more snackage in Japan as you’ll soon see in the next post!

Ramen Kyowakoku (Ramen Republic) (札幌ら~めん共和国)
10/F Sapporo ESTA
North 5-jo West 2-chome
Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Ph: +81 11-213-2010
Open 7 days, 11am-10pm

Ramen Yokocho (Ramen Alley) (ラーメン横丁)
South 5-jo West 3-chome
Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Opening hours vary by store

Ramen Meijinbou (ラーメンの名人房)
South 6-jo West 3-chome
Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Ph: +81 11-533-3600
Open 7 days, noon -7 am

Soup Curry Lavi
10/F Sapporo ESTA
North 5-jo West 2-chome
Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Ph: +81 11-232-2020
Open 7 days, 11am – 10pm

14 thoughts on “Warming up in Sapporo – Ramen, Soup Curry and Potatoes”

  1. Errmhagerd that kakuni ramen!!! Definitely adding that joint to my list and Ramen Republic lol so much awesomenesss in this post Jacq! Lovely photos as usual!

  2. That curry soup looks great! Different to other currys I have had in Japan. Never been to Hokkaido although It has been on my to do list for a while , I seem to always find myself in Japan in winter and don’t fancy the cold that much…

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