One of the main reasons why we visited Sapporo, Japan, was to learn more about Hokkaido cuisine. That, of course, meant learning about ramen in Hokkaido. The region is known for three unique and different kinds of ramen. That means searching for the best ramen in Sapporo can be a bit exciting and different from eating ramen in other parts of the country. In this post, we help food travelers find some of the best ramen in the city.
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The Best Ramen In Sapporo
As an outsider to a destination, it’s always brave to claim that something is the best. I’m sure if any locals from Sapporo were to read this post they quickly share their opinion on where to find the best ramen in Sapporo.
That said, this was our first trip to Sapporo and we decide to go during the heart of winter. We’ve been to Japan a half of dozen times and were very excited to explore a new region. Finding the best ramen in Sapporo during winter seemed ideal. After all, the thought of a warm bowl of tasty ramen helped us deal with temperatures we hadn’t experienced since living in Chicago nearly 20 years ago.
Sapporo Style Ramen
Although it’s possible to eat ramen from around the country, there are three varieties of ramen from Hokkaido – Sapporo, Hakodate, and Asahikawa. These three cities are the largest cities in Hokkaido. The styles differ based on the type of noodles and the type of broth.
In this post, we will provide tips on how to find the best Sapporo ramen. This means understanding the differences between the types of ramen in Hokkaido. It also includes some areas of Sapporo to visit in search of a great bowl. For more on Hokkaido cuisine check out our Sapporo Food Guide.
Miso Ramen From Sapporo
First, Sapporo miso ramen is a ramen broth that uses miso or fermented soybean as a base. Normally the miso broth is augmented with pork and even a version of tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu is made with pork bones and pork marrow.
Sapporo ramen noodles are often different than noodles used elsewhere in Japan. The Sapporo noodles are made of egg. They are more yellow than other types of ramen noodles. They are also a bit, well, curvy or scrunchy than the noodles found elsewhere in the country.
Sapporo style is often called butter corn ramen, this is because it is normally topped with canned corn and a big slab of butter. Some say these versions are just for tourists, but we saw locals eating them too. In addition, look for Sapporo miso ramen to be topped with sliced green onion, roasted pork (char-siu), bamboo shoots, and stir-fried vegetables.
Even when not in Hokkaido, look for Sapporo Ichiban Miso Ramen, which is an instant miso-based ramen noodle that can be found at shops around the world.
Learn more about Japanese food in our post about the Best Japanese Snacks To Try.
Salt Ramen From Hakodate
Second, Hakodate style ramen is a salt based broth, or shio based. It’s lighter in texture and color than a miso based broth. Normally, Hakodate ramen is topped with tonkotsu pork, spring onions, and bamboo shoots. The noodles are often a little more straight than miso-based ramen noodles.
Don’t expect the Hakodate ramen to be particularly salty. It’s often made with pork or chicken stock and results in a more clear broth than the miso version. It’s probably one of the versions of ramen most like Chinese noodle soups because Hakodate is one of the first ports that started to produce ramen. It is said that ramen started in this area in the late 1800s.
Soy Ramen From Asahikawa
Last, Asahikawa style ramen is a shoyu or soy-based broth. Asahikawa has one of the highest concentrations of ramen restaurants per capita of any city in Japan. The broth is normally tonkotsu (pork-based) and seafood based along with soy sauce seasoning. It’s the ramen you see on menus that has a much darker broth.
If you are up for a little ramen adventure, take the train for about two hours north of Sapporo to visit Asahikawa Ramen Mura or the Ramen Village.
How To Interpret A Sapporo Ramen Menu
Luckily, most of the best places to eat ramen in Sapporo have picture menus, often with English translations underneath. Even without English, the pictures go a long way to figuring out which ramen to order in Sapporo if you know what to look for. The prices are also clearly marked. Some menus include upgrades as well, for example, if you want extra noodles, extra pork, or an extra egg.
The view from our room at the Mercure Sapporo
Where To Stay In Sapporo
I recommend staying in the Susukino neighborhood of Sapporo. It’s centrally located near all of the best places to eat. It’s also only about a block and a half from ramen alley! If you are visiting Sapporo for ramen, the Mercure couldn’t be a better location. The Mercure Sapporo is a 15-story contemporary high-rise hotel with French influences and is part of the Accor family of hotels.
The Mercure Sapporo is close to all of the best places to eat in Sapporo. It’s right in the heart of Susukino and only a few blocks away from ramen alley and Nijo Market. This was perfect for us, and really anyone who visits Sapporo, particularly in the winter. You can eat all of the best foods in Sapporo without traveling more than a few blocks from the hotel.
Book the Mercure Sapporo here.
Ganso Sapporo Ramen Street And Yokocho Ramen Street
In the center of Susukino in Sapporo is a ramen alley, filled with more than a dozen well-known ramen shops. When I first learned about this tiny alley, I was a little confused. I saw references to “ramen alley” in Sapporo, ramen street, yokocho, and ganso ramen street. I wasn’t sure if this was one place or multiple places.
Ganso means original and yokocho means alley. So, the most proper way to call the street is Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho or the Original Sapporo Ramen Alley. That clears it all up.
The famous ramen alley in the Susukino neighborhood started in 1951 and has been going strong since then. We ate a few bowls on the tiny ramen street, and all of them were very good. Although only about a half dozen shops started in the alley, now there are about a dozen.
Shops open around 11 am and can stay open quite late. Each shop has its own hours depending on the day of the week. Some close between lunch and dinner. Regardless, there will always be at least a couple of ramen shops open almost all day.
Ramen At Sapporo Station
We are huge fans of looking at train stations in Japan when searching for the best food. I would not make this recommendation for travelers to the US, but in Japan, we’ve eaten very well inside train stations. There are loads of great Sapporo station restaurants, particularly for ramen.
Sapporo Ramen Republic at ESTA is also known as Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku. It’s on the 10th floor of the ESTA transportation complex. You can find shops serving all three styles of Hokkaido Ramen.
This is also a great alternative to the Susukino ramen alley for travelers heading to Sapporo in winter. It’s indoors, so warmer than the original ramen alley. Also, look for the shrine to the ramen god! Just outside of the station, in a small corridor of restaurants above the ST Toho Line, look for Ichiryuan Ramen Sapporo. They almost always have a long line out front.
Ramen At Sapporo Airport
Ramen At Sapporo Airport
If looking for one more shot of tasty ramen in Sapporo before flying out, check out Hokkaido Ramen Dojo at the New Chitose Airport. Located in the Domestic Terminal (and connected by a walkway to the international terminal) this ramen alley has about a dozen of the most famous ramen shops in Japan. Although the shops specialize in the three Hokkaido style ramen you can find other versions as well. Look for it on the third floor and follow signs for Gourmet World.
Finding The Best Ramen In Sapporo
Authentic Japanese ramen, which is entirely unlike the instant noodle varieties, are made of alkaline noodles. The alkaline helps the noodles to keep their shape in the hot broth. These noodles, along with meat, seafood, and vegetables are served inside a hot broth.
This is probably one of the most well-known types of ramen in Sapporo. The broth is miso-based, meaning the base is made with fermented soybeans.
Shio ramen is salt ramen, which is famous in Hokkaido. The broth is much lighter and can even be almost clear in color.
Shoyu ramen is a soy sauce-based ramen and is known for being a lot darker in color.
Expect to pay, on average, about ¥1000 for a bowl of ramen. At Sapporo Airport, we paid about ¥800. We paid between ¥800-900 on ramen alley in Susukino. Normally, more expensive bowls have seafood in them or extra portions of pork.
Yes. You will not be looked at funny if you slurp while eating your ramen. Slurping ramen or any other noodles in Japan is done for two reasons. One, the air you add while slurping enhances the flavor of your food. Think letting a bottle of wine “breath”. Two, it helps to cool off your noodles. For the most part, people in Japan eat quickly. Slurping allows people to eat quickly without burning their mouths.