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Ishikari Nabe: Why This Japanese Dish Will Warm Your Body and Your Soul

Ishikari Nabe: Why This Japanese Dish Will Warm Your Body and Your Soul

Date published: 30 September 2019
Last updated: 26 June 2020

Ishikari nabe (Japanese hot pot) is a local cuisine that represents Hokkaido. It is a miso-based nabe that uses vegetables, salmon or trout.

Kindaitei, a nabe specialty restaurant located in Ishikari City that opened over a century ago, is said to have created this tasty Japanese dish. Kindaitei opened in 1880 and still uses the same building since its conception.

Here you can appreciate the secret family recipe that has been passed down through generations, and also fantastic salmon and trout delicacies. It is worth the trip to taste authentic Ishikari nabe.

Table of Contents
  1. What is Ishikari Nabe, Hokkaido’s Local Cuisine?
  2. Kindaitei: A Long-Established Salmon Restaurant with a Charming Historical Feel
  3. On Kintaitei's Menu: Hokkaido Salmon and Trout Course Meals
  4. Many Delicious Hokkaido Salmon Dishes
  5. The Original Ishikari Nabe has a Deep and Mild Flavor
We guarantee that once you try it, you will come back for more! In the recent years there are more foreign customers that come here.

What is Ishikari Nabe, Hokkaido’s Local Cuisine?

Ishikari nabe is a hot pot with ingredients like raw salmon, trout or saw-edged perch, plus onion and cabbage, placed into a soup stock made from kombu kelp and miso.

Ishikari nabe was originally a meal for fishermen in the Ishikari region, where fishermen would chop up the salmon and put it into a large pot of miso soup.

Kindaite’s Ishikari nabe. It is part of your course meal

Ishikari nabe is now a local Hokkaido hot pot cuisine. It is served in many restaurants and also a popular home cooking recipe. The flavor and ingredients will vary depending on the shop or household, but the main ingredients of salmon or trout with vegetables in a miso based soup won’t change.

At Kindaitei they server their Ishikari nabe with sansho (Japanese pepper) on top of the tofu. This is the kakushiaji - a secret ingredient added to give a subtle flavor, and also what makes it stand out

Kindaitei: A Long-Established Salmon Restaurant with a Charming Historical Feel

Kindaitei, a restaurant specializing in salmon and trout dishes, is located near the Ishikari River in Ishikari City, where salmon fishing was conducted during the Meiji Period. From the central area of Sapporo City it takes about 40 minutes by car, and 60 minutes by the Hokkaido Chuo Bus from the Chuo Bus Sapporo Bus Terminal near Sapporo TV Tower.

There is heavy snow in winter
They use eaves at the entrance so it is not affected by the snow. A build fit for a region with heavy snow

They have been using the same building since they opened. When you open the door you can feel charm from the past! It’s as if you entered a historical movie or theater.

In the entrance they have period coarse oilpaper umbrellas and posters

After taking off your shoes and putting on slippers, you can really feel the age of the building with the slightly tilted hallway that creaks.

Along the wall, they have period posters and household goods on display. It feels like you entered a history museum instead of a restaurant.

In one area of the hallway they have wooden skis and old farm tools on display
In the showcase they have more old household goods on display. They have items far back from the Meiji period
The veranda in the back is even charming. Through the window you can see that the snow has piled up quite high.

Kindaitei first started when the first Okami (proprietress) Ishiguro Saka moved to Hokkaido from Niigata Prefecture during the Meiji period and established the shop under the name Oishiguro.

4th generation Okami Ishiguro Masako explained the history of the Kindaitei

When Kindaitei first opened, they started providing salmon hot pot that fishers would eat to the general public.

During the Taisho period the second-generation Okami, Ishiguro Ko, came up with new salmon dishes such as Hizu-no-Namasu (hizu is the salmon head cartilage and namasu is a vinegar dish with vegetables) and Yaki-Shirako (grilled milt), which lead to using the whole salmon without waste.

Kindaitei offers an experience where you can taste every section of the salmon

From then on they have passed on the cooking method and started serving Ishikari nabe as salmon nabe.

On Kintaitei's Menu: Hokkaido Salmon and Trout Course Meals

Let’s dig in! The menu at Kintaitei is all course meals that require reservations. They have the following 4 courses and each course comes with a salmon nabe and 6 - 14 dishes.
・Hana Course (7 dishes, 3,000 yen)
・Tsuki Course (9 dishes, 4,000 yen)
・Yuki Course (12 dishes, 5,000 yen)
・Kotobuki Course (15 dishes, 6,000 yen)
*per person price. Reservations start from two people

They also have additional dishes of Fry (800 yen) and Ikura-don (salmon roe rice bowl) (1,500 yen).

Tsuki course. The salmon nabe is portion for two and the rest of the dishes are single portions

It really is a salmon and trout specialty shop, and all the types used on the menu are from Ishikari.

By the way, the fishing season for salmon is in autumn, and trout is spring. For that reason, from autumn to early spring, they use salmon, and from spring to early autumn, they use trout. However, the menu doesn’t change throughout the year. You can enjoy a salmon or trout meal anytime you come here.

This time we tried the nine dish Tsuki course.

Many Delicious Hokkaido Salmon Dishes

All the seats at Kindaitei are private rooms and they have 6 rooms.

An authentic Japanese style room

As we entered the room there were few dishes on the table already. As we were seated, the other dishes such as grilled food were served and at the end, the Hokkaido salmon nabe was served.

Many dishes that perfectly match sake!

Here are the 8 dishes that are served along with the salmon nabe in the Tsuki course.

First dish: Ikura (salmon roe)

The salmon roe is marinated in soy sauce, but it has a light and elegant taste. We had a little and saved the rest to put in the salmon nabe

Second dish: Hizu-no-Namasu
The delicate flesh from the front of a salmon is sliced thinly and then fully drained of blood. Then it is pickled and mixed in with daikon radish.

It has the crunchy cartilage texture, but also has the soft collagen feel to it. It matches the daikon pickles and has a light flavor.

Third dish: Tomoe-Ae
Salmon liver, stomach and gut made into a paste and flavored with sugar and miso.

It is slightly sweet. It is a bit chewy, kind of like meat offal or the part surrounding the meat on a scallop

Fourth dish: Mefun-no-Shiokara
Mefun is the intestine along the midrib in areas near the kidney; it is dark red with blood. These ingredients are then made into a shiokara (fermented with salt).

Now this is a delicacy! It has a soft creamy texture. This is the kind of flavor that makes Japanese sake flow

Fifth dish: Kanshiobiki
This traditional preservative food that Okami Ishighuro proudly boasts, they use the same cooking method from the Edo period.

They preserve the salmon caught in October in salt and then let it sit in ice-cold water in January to remove the salt, which takes about a week to 10 days. Then it is hanged to dry until May. The dish on the table is salmon that was caught in autumn last year.

It is a bit hard, but as you chew it gets softer. Quite interesting how the more you chew the more umami comes out
They had salmon hanging in the restaurant

As we were eating the first 5 dishes, the following dishes were served in sequence.

Sixth dish: Grilled Salmon

It is lightly salted so you can really taste the salmon. It’s quite big and we were a bit worried if we could finish the nabe that would be served later.

Seventh dish: Grilled Shirako
Salt flavored salmon shirako (milt) grilled with a side of grated daikon radish.

It has a plump feel with the skin, but the inside is very rich and creamy. You can taste the salt all the way to the center and it matches the grated daikon to counteract the saltiness.

Eighth dish: Ruibe
Ruibe is salmon sashimi that was frozen and then partially defrosted. When the surface is defrosted slightly, it is ready to eat with soy sauce and wasabi.

At first it has the raw sashimi texture, but once you bite further in it has the semi-frozen crunch. A dish where you enjoy the flavor of the salmon and the slight crunchy texture.

The Original Ishikari Nabe has a Deep and Mild Flavor

As we are eating the course dishes, the Hokkaido salmon nabe is served. Time for the main dish.

At Kindaitei, cabbage and onions are stewed in a kombu stock base with white miso. Then chunks of salmon, shungkiu (edible chrysanthemum), green onion, konjac and tofu with Japanese pepper is placed in the nabe.
The salmon is from Ishikari and the vegetables are also from Ishikari and nearby regions.

As the nabe is placed on fire, the room is filled with delicious aroma
The first bowl was served by Okami Ishiguro

First, we tasted the soup.

The mixture of sweetness from the vegetables, kombu stock, and umami of the salmon creates a mild flavor. Surprisingly you can’t taste the saltiness or the rich flavor of miso; it is more of an elegant hint.

The sansho pepper gives that nice tingly feeling but also helps to suppress the smell of raw salmon and provide a more mild taste. You can really feel and taste the various ingredients combine in the pot.

I probably don’t have to mention this, but it is totally different from Ishikari nabe made at home! It is so good that you can’t stop eating it
Don’t forget to put some ikura on the salmon

The salmon has nice light flavor. The vegetables are sweet and delicious. It is filling but, you can keep eating it. We ate the whole thing including all the soup!

After we finished eating the mirror in the room was foggy

For over 130 years, Kindaitei has been serving Hokkaido hot pot, and you can appreciate their dedication. It’s really delicious! The flavor and charming aesthetics make me want to come again.

It is well worth the one hour travel time from Sapporo. The great originator of Ishikari nabe, a true legend. Make sure you experience this if you have the chance!

  • Kindaitei
    • Address Shinmachi 1 Ishikari-shi, Hokkaido
    • Hours: 11:00 AM ~ 9:00 PM (L.O. 7:00 p.m.) *requires reservations
      Closed: unscheduled

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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