Look forward to eating lots of good food when you’re traveling to this prefecture up north. With its diverse landscapes – mountains, forests, farmlands, lakes, and seas, Aomori is famed for its bounty of quality produce whatever the season may be. It is likewise a treasure trove of rich culinary traditions that vary per locale. For starters, here’s a list of the 13 best local food in Aomori you should try and prepare to delight your taste buds as you go around the region.
Bordered on its three sides by bodies of water – the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan, and Mitsui Bay, Aomori gets to enjoy fresh marine products all year round. Its best produce includes squids, scallops, and Oma Maguro, which is considered to be the best grade tuna. You can enjoy Aomori’s wide range of seafood in a number of ways by trying different local recipes, or you can have them fresh – as sashimi, sushi, or nokkedon (DIY seafood topped rice). One of the best places to order your fresh serving of seafood is in a fish market. Aomori City’s Furukawa Fish Market is a popular choice.
Furukawa Fish Market
Address: 1-11-16 Furukawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Hachinohe Senbei Jiru
This specialty soup of Hachinohe City is a flavorful stew of vegetables, fish, meat, and mushrooms, with Nanbu Senbei (flour crackers) as the special topping. The senbei used in this recipe is different than the ones eaten as popular snacks. It doesn’t melt in hot soup, but instead, it becomes chewy in texture like an al dente pasta.
Another soup dish originating from Hachinohe City – in particular, in the coastal town of Hashikami, Ichigoni is a simple but indulgent broth of fresh sea urchins and abalone. It is often served as the soup dish during special occasions and every July, the town holds the “Ichigo-ni Festival”, where the dish is sold along with other seafood delicacies.
Jappajiru is Aomori City’s winter staple. It is made of the bony parts and guts of the season’s representative fish, the codfish, simmered in miso broth, vegetables, and tofu. It is truly a tasty and nutritious dish that also warms up your core.
Hotate Kaiyaki is an Aomori dish that uses large scallop shells as a pan to grill scallops and beaten egg in a miso-based broth. It is said to bring out flavors more and results in a simple but delicious dish that is also high in nutritional value. In fact, it is long viewed as a comfort food for the sick, but nothing’s stopping you from enjoying it anytime you want as it is now commonly served in many restaurants across Tsugaru and Shimokita areas of the prefecture.
Hachinohe, the Aomori city that faces the Pacific Ocean, is the source of Japan’s number one mackerel. Mackerel fished in this part of the country has more fat and is so good that its taste is actually comparable to the finest cuts of tuna. To have your fill of this seafood goodness, make your way to the city’s Hasshoku Center. Here, you can see, buy, and grill your Hachinohe mackerel. Taste for yourself what the fuss is all about.
Address: 22-2 Aza Kansai, Kawaragi, Hachinohe-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Shoga Miso Oden
Oden is a popular snack across Japan and in these parts of the country, they enjoy it with sweet miso paste and grated ginger (shoga). This serving of oden is uniquely Aomori-style. It is particularly popular in winter, but you can always find a restaurant or an izakaya that serves it all year long.
Towada Bara Yaki
Simply put, Towada Bara Yaki is grilled beef ribs and onions flavored with sweet and salty soy sauce-based sauce. But don’t let this simple description fool you as it isn’t called the soul food of Towada City for nothing. For the more adventurous, there are restaurants in the city that lets you grill your own meat. There are also other variations of the dish using pork and horse meat.
Tsugaru Ramen is the representative ramen variety in the region. It uses niboshi broth made of small dried fish, which makes for a very distinct taste. The classic Tsugaru Ramen Assari has a clear broth and a simple flavor. On the other hand, newer styles like the popular Noukou Niboshi Kei mix niboshi with meat-based broths for stronger taste profiles.
Shijimi Ramen is a special ramen hailing from Jusanko town of Goshogawara City. Its key ingredient for both the stock and topping is Shijimi – the freshwater clams, which the town is known all over Japan for, and for additional flavor, it contains green onions, seaweed, bamboo shoots, and boiled egg. Most popular during the summer, this type of ramen has a lighter flavor profile and is more health-friendly than other ramen varieties.
French Cuisine in Hirosaki City
When Japan re-opened its doors to the world during Meiji Period, many foreigners flocked to Hirosaki City. It was being created as an academic city for Western learning and with the people also came their culture. This brush with globalization is very much evident in the city given the number of its heritage buildings and restaurants – in particular, French cuisine. In fact, Hirosaki is said to have the largest concentration of French restaurants in all of Japan.
Thanks to its cool climate, top quality rice, and pure water, Aomori is a region with ideal conditions for sake brewing. It is home to several breweries, a good number of which were established since the Meiji period. To name some of the main brands, they are Denshu (from Aomori City), Joppari (Hirosaki), Komaizumi (Shichinohe), and Momokawa (Oirase Town).
Last but not the least, you can’t talk about Aomori without mentioning apples. This fruit was introduced to Hirosaki in 1875, and since then, the city had become the number one apple producer of Japan.
When visiting the city, you can participate in apple picking activities during harvest periods. All throughout the year, you can enjoy a long list of apple-related food items in the city’s bakeries, restaurants, and food shops. Apple pie is one of the most famous local specialties of Hirosaki City, and for the alcohol enthusiasts, you might also be interested in trying apple-flavored spirits like apple sparkling wine produced by a local company called Kimori.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.