I was back in Japan for about 12 days and had a great time with my friends and family, enjoyed great seafood, and I would like to write about my food experience. I flew to Sapporo, a city in Hokkaido, the northern island, to see my sister who was transferred there for a year. If you don’t know about Hokkaido, for many Japanese it is a special and kind of exotic place to visit where lavender blooms during summer, with great seafood such as wild salmon and king crab. My sister, who loves great food, took me to all sorts of places where the locals go to eat. On the night I arrived, she took me to this great izakaya, a sort of Japanese tapas bar, where you order drinks and many different kinds of small dishes to eat. We ordered tons of seafood and ate it all raw.
Even though I am Japanese, when I go back to Japan, it always surprises me how much raw food is offered. If it is fresh, we eat it raw. Not only seafood is served raw, but also eggs, horse meat, chicken, beef, you name it Japanese will eat it. Anyway, at this izakaya, I had great raw seafood, especially a Pacific fish called sanma in Japanese (the English name is saury but I don’t think it is well known in the west). Sanma is normally grilled, and I had never eaten it as sashimi until this trip. When I put a piece of sanma sashimi in my mouth, it literally melted. The taste was actually similar to yellowtail (hamachi). It was very fatty, and had a little bit nutty flavor. The eyes of the fish were so clear and skin so very bright and shiny, you could tell that it was caught on the same day it was served. That sanma was the most memorable raw fish I had that night.
Then there were of course scallops and shrimp, which are famous in Hokkaido. The special Hokkaido variety of shrimp, called Botan ebi, is very sweet and normally served with its head on. You are supposed to suck out the green stuff from the head and also eat the eggs on its belly if you are lucky enough to have it. It actually looks like a giant Maine shrimp, with a bright pink shell and transparent body. The one I had that night was about 20cm (8 inches) in length. The meat was plump and very sweet. The head had an intense flavor like concentrated fish stock. If you have ever had pasta with squid ink in Venice, you can imagine a taste similar to that. Not fishy at all, just very flavorful.
Botan ebi, tuna, salmon, scallops, and a local clam called Hokki kai.
The scallops from Hokkaido are known for their large size. They were delicious, and of course very sweet. That’s it for now. I will keep writing about other great food I had in Japan for the next few days. Stay tuned….