Towada Barayaki Grilled Beef
Thinly sliced boneless beef ribs are marinated in a sweet and salty soy-sauce blend and then grilled on a sizzling iron hotplate with sliced onions. Towada Barayaki is said to have originated during the postwar period, when many construction workers from all over Japan moved to Misawa City to help build Misawa Air Base. To sate the appetites of these hungry workers, food stalls in front of the base began selling a dish inspired by Korean barbecue and making use of beef cheaply procured from the US military. The dish later spread to Towada City and become a beloved local food. The savory and addictive taste has drawn attention nationwide.
Aomori Ginger-Miso Oden
Oden, a hodgepodge of various ingredients like boiled eggs, fish cakes, konjac, daikon radish, and other vegetables stewed in soy-sauce-flavored broth, is a popular winter dish throughout Japan. But due to the harsh winters in Aomori, the local version of the dish, Ginger-Miso Oden, is made extra warming with the addition of a sweet miso sauce containing grated ginger. It’s said that this version was born at food stalls around Aomori Station to warm up the bodies of passengers as they waited for the ferry to Hokkaido in the bitter cold.
Hirosaki Igamenchi Patties
Since the city of Hirosaki is located inland, in the days before the advent of refrigerated trucking, seafood was more expensive and harder to come by than along the coast. Thus, Hirosaki Igamenchi was devised by the thrifty housewives of Hirosaki as a way to use up all the parts of squid, a precious food, without wasting them. These patties of squid tentacles and seasonal vegetables fried in batter remain a beloved local comfort food to this day. The name means “minced squid” (standard Japanese: ika) in the Tsugaru dialect.
Kuroishi Yakisoba and Tsuyu Yakisoba Noodles
Kuroishi Yakisoba noodles were invented in the city of Kuroishi, which was long home to many noodle-making factories. As demand for yakisoba (Chinese-style fried noodles) increased following World War II, it is said that these factories tried to make yakisoba noodles as well, but they only had cutters for udon noodles. This resulted in the wider, flatter version of yakisoba noodles known as Kuroishi Yakisoba, which became a popular snack food in the city. Later, Kuroishi Tsuyu Yakisoba was born when people began pouring hot broth (tsuyu) over the noodles. Usually topped with chopped leeks and bits of fried tempura batter, the tangy taste of the broth goes great with the chewy texture of the noodles.
Jusanko Shijimi Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodle dishes exist in many different variations throughout Japan, but Aomori has a wide range of its own unique versions. Japanese basket clams (shijimi) from Lake Jusanko are used abundantly in both the light, salt-based broth and the toppings of Jusanko Shijimi ramen noodles. In Japan, basket clams, which are high in various amino acids as well as minerals, have long been known as a popular folk remedy for hangovers. A hearty bowl of Jusanko Shijimi ramen noodles may be just what you need after a night of going overboard on Aomori’s delicious local sake, cider, and craft beer!
Hachinohe Ramen Noodles
Another region of Aomori famous for its ramen noodles is the area of Hachinohe City. Unlike Jusanko Shijimi ramen noodles, which have a salt-based broth, Hachinohe ramen noodles have a darker and tangier soy-sauce-based broth that incorporates the extracts of local sardines, chicken bones, and pork bones. This results in a savory and complex flavor that goes well with the thin, curly noodles.
“Nokkedon” Seafood Rice Bowls
One more local dish that visitors to Aomori definitely won’t want to miss is the Nokkedon or “build-your-own seafood rice bowl” at Aomori Gyosai Center (Furukawa Market) in Aomori City. After buying however many tickets they’d like at the main counter near the entrance, visitors can exchange them for a bowl of hot steamed rice and a variety of fresh sashimi as well as other toppings and side dishes. It’s the perfect way to sample a wide range of local seafood all in one place.