5 Delicious Destinations in Asia and Australia

Follow one foodie's journey as she makes her way through the delicacies of Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Melbourne and Hokkaido. 

By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Last year, I embarked on what would prove the trip of a lifetime: six months hopscotching around Asia. In truth, I had scant idea of what I was in for when my husband and I first packed our lives into twin backpacking packs and trundled ourselves off to the airport. But I knew there would be delicious things — strange, wonderful and delicious things — around every corner.

And I was right: the flavors, ingredients and preparations I encountered during those months forever altered the way I think about food, and if we're being honest, about life. Here are the dishes that changed my worldview. 

Day 8

Day 8

It’s my last day in Hong Kong, so I’m cramming in some final tastes of this flavor-soaked city. First order of business: Stuffing my face at Good Hope Noodle in Mong Kok. The rich noodle soup with shrimp wontons is dirt cheap at just HKD33, which translates to just over four bucks. You can’t ask for a better price!

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

Hong Kong

A frenzied scene of gritty open-air markets, impossibly steep streets and zig-zagging mopeds, Hong Kong is home to a wonderful contrast of authentic Chinese fare and modernist cuisines. I was floored by the divine Szechuan fried chicken bao at Little Bao, a hip pint-sized eatery run by cool girl May Chow. Anointed with a sweet-and-sour Chinese black vinegar glaze and zingy house-made coleslaw, it wouldn't seem out of place in a Brooklyn hotspot.

What to Eat in Hong Kong

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Day 1

My first night in Hong Kong is at The Cordis, a gorgeous modern hotel in the bustling neighborhood of Mong Kok. Below is a frenzied scene of gritty open-air markets and zig-zagging mopeds, but it’s peaceful up here on the 34th floor. Also, there are egg tarts and pineapple buns!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

For lunch I stop by Little Bao, a hip pint-sized eatery run by cool girl May Chow. There are few words for the divine Szechuan fried chicken bao, except “OH MY GOODNESS.” It’s anointed with a sweet-and-sour Chinese black vinegar glaze and zingy house-made coleslaw, which elevate this hot number to sammie heaven.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

Dinner is a roving street food feast at the Temple Street Night Market, complete with thick rice noodles and fried shrimp. The place is still hopping when I leave at 10 P.M., and there are no shortage of beautiful scenes like this one around each corner.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 3

It’s a moody day in Hong Kong, but hot diggity, does the skyline still look fine! Here’s the view from my hotel at the InterContinental hotel.

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Day 3

In the afternoon I head to Maxim’s Palace, a dim sum temple bedecked in crystal chandeliers. It’s teeming with steam-spewing carts of dim sum, pushed along by fast-talking waitresses. I flag down some siu mai, veggie dumplings, and shrimp-stuffed eggplant. I’m full in about 10 minutes flat, which is a new record.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 4

Years of British rule have given Hong Kongers a serious case of Anglophilia, which explains why British-style afternoon tea is wildly popular here. I tucked into a selection of treats at The Langham, which has one of the best afternoon teas in town. My favorite of the bunch is definitely the raspberry eclair with electric pink frosting.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 4

I still have room for lunch at Lung King Heen, the first Cantonese restaurant ever to snag three Michelin stars. I can’t get over this adorable rose-shaped dumpling! It’s filled with sweet lotus paste, and tastes even better than it looks.

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Day 5

It’s my second three Michelin-star meal in two days, and I’m floating on cloud nine. Tonight’s meal is at T’ang Court, and the standout is this decadent baked dish of Alaskan crab, fried rice, and onion smothered in a bed of velvety cream sauce. Talk about a dazzling presentation!

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Day 6

Today is spent wandering the winding streets of Sheung Wan, a fascinating neighborhood where trendy, design-forward restaurants share cramped quarters with traditional dried food stalls and medicinal shops. Around one corner, I spy this gorgeous, ruby-hued Buddhist temple. I’m consistently floored by the beauty of this city.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 6

In nearby Sai Ying Pun, just one neighborhood over, I settle into dinner at Okra. The modern Japanese restaurant, an outpost of the original Beijing location, is owned by native Louisianan Max Levy. He’s behind the counter tonight; the place has only been open a few months, and Levy is the definition of a hands-on chef. Between sips of sake, I’m wowed by refined dishes like this plate of silvery cured sardines and kelp salad.

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Day 7

Day trip time! I take a cab out to Sai Kung, a bustling harbor town on the outskirts of Hong Kong. Sai Kung is famous for its marine-based cuisine, so after a stroll through a brine-soaked market at the water’s edge, I end up at one Michelin-starred Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant. I’m particularly struck by this enormous stir-fried tiger prawn. Coca-Cola bottle for scale!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 8

It’s my last day in Hong Kong, so I’m cramming in some final tastes of this flavor-soaked city. First order of business: Stuffing my face at Good Hope Noodle in Mong Kok. The rich noodle soup with shrimp wontons is dirt cheap at just HKD33, which translates to just over four bucks. You can’t ask for a better price!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 8

I grab a farewell drink at Aberdeen Street Social, a chic but relaxing spot in the middle of Hong Kong’s fashionable Soho neighborhood. The towering Pimm’s Cup is just what the doctor ordered: refreshing, citrusy, and enormous. I’m going to miss this place!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Later, I oohed and ahhed over top-notch traditional dim sum at Maxim's Palace, a cavernous eatery bedecked in crystal chandeliers. The siu mai, veggie dumplings and shrimp-stuffed eggplant are just a few goodies of note. Of course, a visit to Hong Kong isn't complete without a meal at Lung King Heen, the first Cantonese restaurant ever to snag three Michelin stars. I couldn't get over the adorable rose-shaped dumplings filled with sweet lotus paste! 

Day 4

Day 4

I still have room for lunch at Lung King Heen, the first Cantonese restaurant ever to snag three Michelin stars. I can’t get over this adorable rose-shaped dumpling! It’s filled with sweet lotus paste, and tastes even better than it looks.

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

Taipei

Of all the reasons to visit Taipei, Taiwan's capital city, food is tops in my book. My first stop is a local pastry shop — they're on every corner — and I'm immediately overwhelmed by the tremendous selection. I go a little bit overboard, because why not: a poppy seed and almond swirled pastry, matcha-flavored bread stuffed with mochi and whole red beans, another red bean-stuffed number and a honeyed roll stuffed with delicate custard.

Getting a Taste of Taipei

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Day 1

I arrive late in Taipei and want to crawl into bed as soon as possible. The only problem: I’m starving. I duck into a local pastry shop for a quick bite, but I’m overwhelmed by the selection and go a little bit overboard. The standout is a poppy seed- and almond-swirled pastry, pictured in the bottom left corner. The matcha-flavored bread stuffed with mochi and whole red beans in the upper left comes in a close second.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

It’s hot today, which means cold noodles dressed in creamy peanut sauce are in order. I’ve eaten versions of this dish in Chinese take-out joints my entire life, but none of them come close to this one in flavor. Chewy, fresh noodles, raw garlic sauce, and a dollop of fiery chili paste make all the difference. Strangely, the heat doesn’t seem to get to the Taiwanese, who slurp down piping hot fish ball soup alongside their chilled noodles. I follow suit, and don’t regret it.

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Day 2

For dinner, I swing by the Raohe Street Night Market, a bustling outdoor market filled to the gills with ravenous tourists and locals alike. Steam-spewing stalls hawk snacks like freshly grilled skewers of meat and seafood, pan-fried dumplings, clear cellophane noodles, and more.

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Day 3

There’s a wonderful local market street just below my Airbnb in Songshan District, and I make a habit of grabbing lunch every day from the various stalls there. Today’s selection: Silky pork-filled wontons in a rich broth, fluffy chive-stuffed bao, and a sesame-studded flatbread flecked with fried garlic.

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Day 3

After a day strolling through the city, I end up at a small beef noodle soup restaurant. Beef noodle soup is one of Taiwan’s most famous dishes, and after my first spoonful, I know why. Despite its simple name, the broth is insanely complex and intensely wonderful. The meat, braised for hours, falls apart the moment it hits my tongue. I think I could eat this forever.

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Day 4

Today’s find at the market street downstairs: An insanely cute doughy bao filled with red bean paste. It looks just like a peach!

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Day 4

Camera in hand, I spend the day exploring Songshan, which has no shortage of breathtaking sights. I spy this lady doing her daily shopping amongst cramped stalls overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables that, try as I might, I can’t identify. It’s all part of the fun.

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Day 5

Breakfast is a gut-busting beauty: A chive-flecked omelette stuffed inside flaky, onion-encrusted dough. Throw some bacon and cheese in this baby, and you could put every bodega in New York City out of business.

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Day 5

I walk off breakfast by hiking up Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain. Located within city limits, the modest mountain is shaped like an elephant, trunk included. I’m panting when I reach the top, but I’m rewarded with a stunning view of Taipei 101, which is the ninth-tallest building in the world.

©Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 5

Later, I’m craving something sweet. Shaved matcha ice with a generous helping of red beans and vanilla ice cream seems like the right move.

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Day 6

It’s back to the market downstairs for lunch. There are new snacks around every corner! I can’t get enough of the velvety shrimp dumplings and rice rolls, and I’ll probably dream of the sweet Taiwanese sausage tonight.

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Day 6

Later in the day, I tour around the city’s various temples, which are insanely busy. At Longshan Temple, which was built in 1738 in honor of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, the air is flooded with the scent of charred incense and flowers left as offerings.

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Day 7

My husband is a baseball fanatic, so we just had to take in a game before skipping town. Baseball is big here, despite several game-fixing scandals that have rocked the sport in recent years. It’s an amazingly good time — fans shout elaborate cheers, and Taiwan Beer (the local suds of choice) is flowing. What’s not to like? It’s a fun sendoff after a food-filled week. I’ll be back, Taipei!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Later, I hit up a shop slinging chewy cold noodles dressed in creamy peanut sauce, raw garlic and a dollop of fiery chili paste. Even on a hot day, my fellow diners slurp down piping hot fish ball soup alongside their chilled noodles, so I naturally follow suit.

The next day, I explore the wonderful local market street just below my Airbnb in Songshan District. I nab silky pork-filled wontons in a rich broth, fluffy chive-stuffed bao and a sesame-studded flatbread flecked with fried garlic. But the best meal of the entire trip is a deeply flavorful and complex beef noodle soup. The meat, braised for hours, falls apart the moment it hits my tongue. 

Day 3

Day 3

After a day strolling through the city, I end up at a small beef noodle soup restaurant. Beef noodle soup is one of Taiwan’s most famous dishes, and after my first spoonful, I know why. Despite its simple name, the broth is insanely complex and intensely wonderful. The meat, braised for hours, falls apart the moment it hits my tongue. I think I could eat this forever.

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

Shanghai

Shanghai is still a relatively young city — its history as a major hub dates only to the 19th century — but you'd never guess it from the complexity and variety of flavors on parade. I spend a day wandering through the former French Concession, an area of official French settlement between 1849 and 1943, which today boasts gorgeous architecture and cute boutiques. Hunger strikes, so I stop at a traditional noodle shop to scarf down "dry" Shanghainese noodles — meaning no soup — topped with tangy stir-fried pork, bok choy and dried mushrooms. It's insanely good.

Savoring the Flavors of Shanghai

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Day 1

Nothing says “Welcome to Shanghai!” like a box of éclairs! These are waiting when I arrive to my room at the Langham Shanghai, located just off Huaihai Road, the flashy boutique-filled strip sometimes referred to as the “Champs-Élysées of the East.” It’s delicious proof that Shanghai, although more famous for juicy dumplings and slurp-worthy noodles, is home to pastries that can rival the best of Paris.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

I spend the day wandering through the former French Concession, an area of official French settlement between 1849 and 1943. Today, it’s an adorable warren of tree-lined streets brimming with shops and restaurants. I stop at a traditional noodle shop to scarf down “dry” Shanghainese noodles (meaning no soup) topped with tangy stir-fried pork, bok choy, and dried mushrooms. I pledge to find something similar back home in New York City.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

In the evening, I trek out to the Bund, the wide waterfront walkway that hugs the western bank of the Huangpu River. The air is damp and obscured by fog, which only serves to enhance the buildings sprouting from Pudong, the business district across the water.

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Day 3

I wake up with a singular goal in mind: dumplings! At lunch, I elbow my way into a packed local lunch spot slinging halal treats from the Western province of Xinjiang. I finally snag a seat and some boiled dumplings stuffed with fennel seed-spiked ground lamb. Mission accomplished!

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Day 3

Temperatures climb into the 80s today, so a supper of chilled hand-pulled noodles is in order. Less cooling, however, is the fiery chili oil in which the slippery strands are dressed. I can’t feel my face by the time the plate is clear, but I don’t care. These noodles are that good. In fact, I want more — my dining companions and I order another fiery plate before heading home.

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Day 4

I’ve got a mountain of work to slog through today — the life of a travel writer ain’t all fun and games, people! — but I sneak away for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Confession: It’s the same one as yesterday. I find that I crave familiarity during periods of constant travel, although “familiar” can simply mean a restaurant I’ve visited before. Instead of dumplings, I mix things up with a bowl of rich beef soup swimming with thick wheat noodles and a dash of chili oil. I leave satisfied, both mentally and physically.

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Day 5

Today is all about one thing: xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. I make a beeline for Jia Jia Tang Bao, a cramped spot widely considered to serve some of the best in town. The queue stretches half a block, but I pass the time by sneaking a peek at the staff as they single-mindedly roll dumpling dough into perfect circles with lightening-pace speed. What skill!

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Day 5

Some thirty minutes later, I’m seated on a low plastic chair before a steaming bamboo basket, which cradles delicate pouches of fatty broth, pork, and crab. After a quick splash of sweet soy-and-ginger sauce, I devour them like a woman who hasn’t eaten in a month.

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Day 6

I meet friends at Pelikan, a new Nordic restaurant with an interior that, oddly, wouldn’t look out of place in Palm Beach. It works, though — the bright, palm frond-lined wallpaper lends a pep that extends to the cocktail menu, which includes eight (!!!) different riffs on the gin and tonic.

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Day 7

After a thrifty morning of nonstop haggling at a “fake market” specializing in knock-off products — I leave with a legit-looking “Samsonite” suitcase — I’m a frazzled mess and in need of some low-key relaxation. Good thing I’m staying at the Portman Ritz-Carlton. I slip into a luxe robe and think zen thoughts. Shanghai, it’s been real — see you next time!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Hours later, I'm hungry again: I settle on a supper of chilled hand-pulled noodles swathed in fiery chili oil. They're so good, slippery and chewy at once, that I order another spicy plate before heading back to my Airbnb. The next day, I have xiaolongbao — or soup dumplings — on the brain, so I make a beeline for Jia Jia Tang Bao, a cramped spot widely considered to serve some of the best in town. After waiting in line for what seems like ages, I find myself staring into a steaming bamboo basket cradling delicate pouches of fatty broth, pork and crab. After a quick splash of sweet soy-and-ginger sauce, I devour them like a woman who hasn't eaten in a month. 

Day 5

Day 5

Some thirty minutes later, I’m seated on a low plastic chair before a steaming bamboo basket, which cradles delicate pouches of fatty broth, pork, and crab. After a quick splash of sweet soy-and-ginger sauce, I devour them like a woman who hasn’t eaten in a month.

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

Melbourne

After two blistering hot months in Asia, chilly Australia is a welcome breath of fresh air. I spend the day wandering amidst the food and knick-knack stalls at Queen Victoria Market, which has been around in some form since the mid-19th century. I grab a bite at The Mussel Pot, which operates out of an adorable trailer kitchen behind the market. The juicy green-lipped mussels are fresh from nearby Portarlington, which sits just across Port Phillip Bay; they have a gorgeous, bright orange hue and are bursting with briny juice and lemon. But the best meal of this trip's leg is the tasting menu at Cumulus Inc. in the Central Business District. I'm bowled over by the Wagyu beef rump, doused in buttery Cafe de Paris sauce and garnished with colorful slivers of watermelon radish. It's (almost) too beautiful to eat. 

What to Eat in Melbourne

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Day 1

After two blisteringly hot months in Asia, chilly Australia is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s winter here, which means that I’m wearing almost everything I own to keep warm, but I’m nonetheless excited to scope out the city’s restaurants and sights. For lunch, I don’t stray far from my Airbnb apartment in Fitzroy, Melbourne’s beautiful, graffiti-scrawled hipster enclave. I settle into a window-side seat at the chic cafe Hammer & Tong and order an elegant plate of local greens, wafer-thin toasts, cherry tomatoes, caramelized figs, honeyed baked ricotta, and a drizzle of thick, sweet balsamic syrup. It’s so vibrant and fresh, and I know immediately that I’m going to like Melbourne.

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Day 1

Before heading out, I grab the prettiest latte I’ve seen in months. It pairs perfectly with my scarf, I think!

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Day 1

Dinner is at the Greek joint Jimmy Grants, the brainchild of MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris. When I visit, it’s practically overflowing with hungry souvlaki-seeking souls and I scramble to snag one of its mere 36 seats. I’m mercifully successful and order the slow-roasted lamb shoulder, which is so tender and fatty that it practically melts on the tongue. Just for good measure, I throw a steaming pile of freshly-fried chips — that’s Australian for French fries — into the mix.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 2

I spend the day wandering amidst the food and knick-knack stalls at Queen Victoria Market, which has been around in some form since the mid-19th century. At around 17 acres, it’s the largest open-air market in the Southern hemisphere. I grab a bite at The Mussel Pot, which operates out of an adorable trailer kitchen behind the market. The green-lipped mussels are fresh from nearby Portarlington, which sits just across Port Phillip Bay. These juicy bivalves are much larger than any variety I’ve encountered in the States and have a gorgeous, bright orange hue. They’re bursting with briny juice and lemon, a.k.a perfect.

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Day 2

No one is more surprised than me to learn that Melbourne is home to some excellent Mexican food. Who knew? Fitzroy’s Los Amates Mexican Kitchen might be the best of the bunch, with its crunchy Baja-style fish tacos zinged up with fresh lime and chipotle-spiked mayo. I wash them down with a couple house-made margaritas, which are a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Salt rim included, of course.

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Day 3

Today is all about sightseeing downtown, which means that a hearty breakfast is required to get me going. Down the street from my apartment, Breakfast Thieves offers up an incredible “Gypsy King” plate, which marries bloody slivers of morcilla sausage and tender rosemary-spiked polenta bars with oozy poached eggs, caramelized onion jam, Parmesan-swirled cauliflower puree, yuzu avocado dollops, and pickled radish. There’s certainly a lot going on in this dish, but it all comes together beautifully, like a carefully orchestrated composition.

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Day 4

There’s street art everywhere in Melbourne — on the sides of buildings, up and down alleyways, and even the paved surfaces of streets. The most striking example might be Hosier Lane, a narrow cobbled street that’s covered from top to bottom in intricate graffiti. Not even the trash bins are spared by the artists’ spray paint.

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Day 5

For lunch, I swing by Pavlov’s Duck. The warm lamb salad is a thing of beauty — cheesy, bright, and hearty. The staff are curious about my American accent, and we chat about my time in Melbourne and all the places I’ve traveled in the last few weeks. I’d already decided that I liked this place, but the warm conversation makes me love it even more. I’m struck by how friendly people are here — if Melbourne wasn’t so far from friends and family, I’d seriously consider moving here.

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Day 6

Tonight is my big splurge meal, at Cumulus Inc. in the Central Business District. I opt for the tasting menu, because why not? Among the most beautiful dishes to appear is the Wagyu beef rump doused in buttery Café de Paris sauce and garnished with colorful slivers of watermelon radish. It’s almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 6

I also try Australian oysters for the first time. Deeply briny with a creamy sweet finish, they make me do a little wiggle of happiness in my chair.

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Day 7

It’s nearly time to shove off, but I’m in desperate need of one last caffeine fix. I swing by Vegie Bar, a cavernous vegetable-forward spot in Fitzroy. It only seems natural to order Australia’s favorite coffee, the flat white, which pairs chocolatey espresso with velvety steamed microfoam. And with that, I’m off — I hope to see you again soon, Melbourne!

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 6

Day 6

Tonight is my big splurge meal, at Cumulus Inc. in the Central Business District. I opt for the tasting menu, because why not? Among the most beautiful dishes to appear is the Wagyu beef rump doused in buttery Café de Paris sauce and garnished with colorful slivers of watermelon radish. It’s almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

Hokkaido

Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, is famous for its shockingly fresh seafood, and I practically don't eat anything else during the week I'm here. Upon arrival in Hakodate, one of Hokkaido's main cities, I swing by Uni Murakami, a petite eatery specializing in briny delicacies. I can't say no to a glistening bowlful of briny ikura, or salmon roe, nestled atop a bed of sushi rice.

Having a Bite in Hokkaido

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Day 1

Japan’s train food is truly a revelation. On a previous stateside misadventure on Amtrak, I reluctantly choked down the saddest, soggiest BLT in all of existence. But on the bullet-train journey from Tokyo to Hakodate, the gateway city to Japan’s wild north? It’s a magnificent platter of fresh raw fish and generously-sized veggie sushi. Japan Rail: 1. Amtrak: 0.

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Day 1

Hakodate is one of the main cities in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. It’s famous for seafood, which dominates my diet for the next week. Upon arrival, I swing by Uni Murakami, a petite eatery specializing in briny delicacies, for an early lunch. I can’t say no to a glistening bowlful of briny ikura, or salmon roe, nestled atop a bed of sushi rice. How gorgeous is that color? Afterward, I wander the city’s small-but-bustling fish market, conveniently located next door.

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Day 1

Hokkaido is also famous for the sweetest, ripest cantaloupe you’ve ever set eyes on. But they’re not cheap — this sliver sets me back $3.50 USD. For melon! But any skepticism I have quickly melts away after the first bite: It is mind-alteringly sweet, and its abundant juice streams down my arms faster than I can sop it up.

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Day 2

My next stop is the small city of Otaru, where I’m staying at a luxurious Japanese inn called Ginrinsou Ryokan, the 19th-century former home of a herring fishing baron. This is the dining room of our private quarters, which is not to be confused with the Japanese-style bedroom, the Western-style bedroom, the sitting room, the second sitting room, or the personal in-room hot spring pool. It overlooks Ishikari Bay, which today still teems with herring.

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Day 2

A night’s stay at a ryokan customarily includes dinner, and tonight’s meal is nothing short of decadent. There are many memorable courses, but my favorite includes creamy uni, or sea urchin, slivers of the freshest sashimi, and delicate woven baskets brimming with raw sweet shrimp.

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Day 3

Also included in a traditional ryokan stay? Breakfast! At Ginrinsou, it’s a doozy, with almost more dishes than I can count. Everything is meticulously styled and presented, not to mention expertly seasoned. It’s perfection.

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Day 3

Dinner that night is at Isezushi Otaru, the city’s lone Michelin-starred restaurant. I order a flight of nigiri, which includes the silkiest, most complexly flavored uni of the trip yet. I may never go home.

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Day 4

For breakfast — yes, breakfast — I swing by Otaru’s Sankaku Fish Market. King crab, raw scallops, raw salmon, uni, and ikura. Can a girl start her day better?

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Day 4

Afterward, I head to the Nikka Whisky Distillery and Museum, which is located about 40 minutes away from Otaru in the neighboring town of Yoichi. It’s a fabulous place to learn about Japan’s whisky obsession, not to mention knock back a free sample or three.

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Day 5

Today I’m in Sapporo, the northern city that’s famously home to Japan’s oldest homegrown brewery. In the winter, Sapporo is bitterly cold (and hosts an epic ice festival), but in the summer, the weather is wonderfully balmy. After a tour of the old Sapporo brewery, I visit the onsite beer garden, which in addition to the brewery’s signature lagers, specializes in a dish called Jingisukan, or “Ghengis Khan.” Slivers of raw mutton are grilled on a heavy metal skillet, which is heated table side. The dish is thought to be inspired by the eating habits of Mongolian soldiers, whose ruler Genghis Khan famously attempted an invasion of the Japanese mainland twice unsuccessfully.

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Day 5

For dinner, I stumble across a tiny local ramen shop, which is clearly popular: The line of would-be patrons tumbles out into the street, which is Always a good sign. After a 15-minute wait, I tuck into a hearty bowl of tsukemen, a form of dry ramen in which noodles are dipped in a rich broth. It’s umami perfection.

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Day 6

Another day in Sapporo, and it’s hot. The only reasonable thing to do is cool down with some matcha soft-serve. Hokkaido is famous for high-quality dairy, and I’m not left disappointed.

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Day 6

How much ramen is too much ramen? I haven’t reached my limit yet. It’s on the menu again tonight and I regret nothing.

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Day 7

Today is all about exploring Furano, a city noted for its rolling fields of lavender and other flowers. The view is gorgeous, but only if you manage to crop out all the tourists! The smell is incredible, though, especially when a light breeze rolls across the color blocked fields. tomorrow I head to Kyoto, but I won’t forget this place anytime soon.

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

My next stop is the small city of Otaru, where I'm staying at a luxurious Japanese inn called Ginrinsou Ryokan, the 19th-century former home of a herring fishing baron. A night's stay at a ryokan customarily includes dinner, and tonight's meal is nothing short of decadent. My favorite of the courses is a heady plate of creamy uni, or sea urchin, slivers of the freshest sashimi and delicate woven baskets brimming with raw sweet shrimp.

The next morning, breakfast doesn't disappoint: at Ginrinsou, it's a doozy, with almost more dishes than I can count, all meticulously styled and presented. It's perfection. One of our last stops is Sapporo, the northern city that's famously home to Japan's oldest homegrown brewery.

After a tour of the old Sapporo brewery, I visit the on-site beer garden, which in addition to the brewery's signature lagers, specializes in a dish called Jingisukan, or "Ghengis Khan." Slivers of raw mutton are grilled on a heavy metal skillet, which is heated table side. (The dish is supposedly inspired by the eating habits of invadng Mongolian soldiers, who grilled meat on their domed metal helmets.) I down bites between sips of crisp Sapporo lager, and thank my lucky stars I find myself in this very spot, in this very moment. 

Day 5

Day 5

Today I’m in Sapporo, the northern city that’s famously home to Japan’s oldest homegrown brewery. In the winter, Sapporo is bitterly cold (and hosts an epic ice festival), but in the summer, the weather is wonderfully balmy. After a tour of the old Sapporo brewery, I visit the onsite beer garden, which in addition to the brewery’s signature lagers, specializes in a dish called Jingisukan, or “Ghengis Khan.” Slivers of raw mutton are grilled on a heavy metal skillet, which is heated table side. The dish is thought to be inspired by the eating habits of Mongolian soldiers, whose ruler Genghis Khan famously attempted an invasion of the Japanese mainland twice unsuccessfully.

Photo by: Rachel Tepper Paley

Rachel Tepper Paley

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