5 Famous Foods You’ll Find in Aomori
Food for the soul during the tough winter, from milky ramen to senbei soup.
Aomori Prefecture is one of the chilliest and snowiest places on the planet. The immense cold and the early sunset has the power to make winters difficult. However, the locals of this prefecture embraced the harsh conditions and ingeniously created dishes that make even the darkest of days all the much better, plus a few other dishes to be enjoyed year round. This list does not include the mass amounts of fresh seafood you can get in Aomori, but that can be found all over the prefecture, especially along the coastlines.
1. Miso Curry Milk Ramen
Photo by: eldidechabo
Aomori is the closest prefecture to Hokkaido (Japan’s northernmost region), so it’s reasonable that some of Hokkaido’s food traditions spread to downward. Perhaps Miso Curry Milk Ramen is a good example of this.
This take on ramen is very similar to a standard Miso Ramen that Hokkaido is known for, but with a splash of milk and a scoop of butter on top. These two dairy products complement the umami of the miso-curry splendidly to make a hearty soup. This flavorful dish is an exquisite way to stay warm during the winter. If you visit the capital of Aomori City, you’ll find restaurants all over where this ramen can be easily found and, of course, enjoyed.
2. Aomori Apples
Photo by: Richard Masoner
Aomori Prefecture, especially the western side, is famous nationwide for its apples. If you ever encounter an apple in Japan, specifically a crisp Fuji apple, there is a high probability that it is from Aomori. This is because over half of all apples produced in Japan come from this prefecture. While the city of Hirosaki is the largest producer, the small town of Fujisaki, on the northwestern area of the prefecture is where the Fuji apple was first developed.
Venture into any souvenir shop, and you are pleasantly bombarded with products that include apples in all kinds of ways, like apple cakes, apple juice and even apple curry. While visiting you can go apple picking, do an apple pie eating tour, and even try fresh apple cider, which is a rare product for most other places in Japan.
The locals are immensely proud of their apples. So much so that in Hirakawa City, about 30 minutes from Hirosaki, there is an “apple bath,” or an onsen (hot spring) where you literally bathe with apples. Quite the experience at Hotel Apple Land Aomori.
You may be planning a trip to Towada City, about one hour away from Aomori City, to see the beautiful Lake Towada. But it is also known around the prefecture for barayaki, a type of beef and onion stirfry. Barayaki is a dish that packs a lot of intense flavors yet is surprisingly simple to prepare. All you need is a “bara” cut of beef (very similar to brisket), onions and a Japanese sauce called tare. Soften the onions, cook the beef, reduce the sauce and you are ready to go. Aomori locals say the best place to get Barayaki is in any Towada area restaurant.
For those who find themselves hiking around Lake Towada (named after the city) or hiking in the Hakkoda Mountains, Towada is the closest city place to go and get a great meal.
Photo by: neruko_kd
Hachinohe City, about two hours away from Aomori City, has many local dishes to boast about. However, the first dish locals usually mention is senbei-jiru (rice cracker stew). In Japanese, senbei means rice cracker and jiru means soup/broth.
Photo by: neruko_kd
Senbei crackers come in various flavors (like shrimp, crab, peanut, etc) but the ones used in the soup taste similar to a saltine cracker. The ingredients of the jiru can change depending on the chef, but the typical ingredients are a soy sauce-based broth, leeks, a protein (mackerel or beef), Japanese mushrooms and senbei. This is a soup that is a prime example of comfort food; perfect for a cold winter afternoon.
Photo by: kei810_
Located about 20 minutes from Hachinohe City is Gonohe, a small farming community with a big reputation for horses. Up until around 200 years ago, Samurai warriors bought their horses in Gonohe. Therefore, Gonohe became associated with horses and consequently its baniku or horse meat.
Photo by: kei810_
People still eat horse meat here regularly and get very excited to share their traditions with travelers. If there is a restaurant that sells meat in Gonohe, it’s almost certain there is horse meat on the menu. It tastes a little sweet and is like a combination of beef and elk/venison. Some restaurants even serve basashi or raw horse meat, very similar to sashimi. Around Aomori, you can even find local street vendors selling a version of a meat bun, or nikuman, with horse meat.