Aomori is a prefecture in northern Japan, and it houses stunning cities and small nooks that offer a different experience than Tokyo, Kyoto, or the country’s other well-known destinations. If one thing makes Aomori extra special, it’s the food, which is incredible because of the agricultural and fishing veins that run through the area. Gorgeous orchards, rice fields that often are used to create intricate visual art and literally the best seafood in the world are some things that define Aomori. So if you make the trek, these are the must-try foods.
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Oden is a type of Japanese comfort stew, and it’s full of hearty veggies, eggs and spongy fish cakes. What better to warm up with on a chilly winter day, than a piping hot bowl of authentic flavor? However when in this prefecture, restaurants often add a miso ginger spin, and it revamps the overall taste of the classic.
Kenoshiru is also a hot, stew-like treat, with its name literally meaning porridge. Savory veggies like daikon radish and carrots are finely chopped and abundantly paired with tofu, and other regional plant-based ingredients. Kenoshiru is truly special, as the veggies in Aomori are so flavorful in the first place, they rarely need any seasoning at all. But toss them in a miso broth, and it’s magic.
Bluefin tuna isn’t just any tuna, it’s regarded as the best tuna in a country that already has an incomparable assortment of fresh seafood. Caught off the shores of Aomori, Bluefin has a more delicate texture than any average tuna—it’s creamy, and the fat is so thinly marbled it seems blended with the meat itself. During an October festival, Oma Super Tuna Festival, one can experience all things Bluefin, from slicing demonstrations and tastings, to a huge seafood barbecue. Tuna burgers and curry are popular, but nothing beats a simple preparation upon Aomori rice.
Sea scallops can be eaten fresh, as they are rich and satisfying while finishing with an almost buttery flavor. But to try them with a different spin, go for Kaiyaki-Miso, miso-marinated scallops cooked in the shell with an egg. Heartier than average sushi, it’s somewhat of a comfort food.
Rice or Sashimi Rice Bowl
Also known as Nokke-don, rice bowls are understandably popular in the agricultural region, which produces its fair share of rice. Sashimi seems like the star of the bowl, with tuna, squid, roe, salmon and all the delicious things we dream about from Japan being options for toppings at Furukawa Fish Market. But what is seen as merely a base is what makes this dish very “Aomori”. Rice. Aomori grows the best in the nation because cool summers mean fewer pesticides, and the grains are drenched in sunlight. Pure water also plays a factor in the incredible taste of this very special variation.
Rice Cracker Stew
Rice cracker stew kind of sounds like a good cup of chowder with some oyster crackers. But in Aomori, it’s another satisfying soup that is excellent when the snow starts to fall. A salty base is created, and of course, more of those delicious vegetables added. Then, instead of meat or other expected main ingredients, rice crackers are added and allowed to soften and thicken. Think of it as their version of chicken noodle soup—it just warms the soul.
Japan has some pretty great beef based dishes, which can be attributed to high-quality farming techniques and simple ingredients. From Ishigaki beef served raw over rice, to perfectly seared Yakiniku, Japan is more than just fresh seafood. Barayaki is very basic, with thinly sliced beef stir-fried with onion and sauce. But the level of quality elevates the flavor.
Miso Curry Milk Ramen
Miso curry milk ramen is an accumulation of other classic Japanese soup-based dishes. A miso-based ramen is given a heartier spin, with milk and butter, which adds a dense creaminess perfect for warming up after a day traversing the copious amounts of snow that pile up during the winter. Imagine how good this ramen is after hours of shoveling or skiing.
Apples (and Apple Pie)
When the snow does melt, apples begin to overflow from the orchards of Aomori, and the region is responsible for one of the most beloved apples brought to the United States, the crisp Fuji. While eating one fresh off the branch is the best way to indulge, pies, curries and ciders are bound to find their way to your taste buds. During the spring, at the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival, a mammoth apple pie is baked for the occasion. Hotel Apple Land Aomori also lets you soak in an apple bath, which fulfills our Japan goals.
Like a calamari burger, squid is finely chopped up and combined with veggies to create flavorful patties. Once shaped, the mixtures are fried until browned on the exterior, and the result is a divine reinvention of an average seafood cake. Enjoy them straight, or as a heavenly savory paring with a creative drink at a Japanese pub, or izakaya. Originally dreamed up to prevent waste of leftovers, folks have fallen in love.
Who doesn’t love garlic? Takkomachi, a town in Aomori, produces gorgeous, large cloves of garlic that have been praised for excellent flavor, and a touch of sweetness. Visitors often leave with highly touted fermented black garlic as a treat to enjoy at home. Garlic makes many dishes in the prefecture even more mouthwatering, and it’s good for you too.