Local Food & Drinks
There’s no better way to celebrate a great day on the slopes than with a few well earned après ski drinks amongst friends. Hakuba has no shortage of great spots on which to set your sights when the lifts shut for the day. Here are a few suggestions
Perhaps the most famous food eaten in Hakuba is “soba” or buckwheat noodles. This is grown all over the Hakuba region and that slope you ski on is sometimes a buckwheat field. Soba (そば or 蕎麦?) is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup Moreover, it is common in Japan to refer to any thin noodle as soba in contrast to udon which are thick noodles made from wheat. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so people can harvest it four times in a year; it is harvested mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. Like many Japanese noodles, soba noodles are often served drained and chilled in the summer, and hot in the winter with a soy-based dashi broth. Extra toppings can be added onto both hot and cold soba. Toppings are chosen to reflect the seasons and to balance with other ingredients. Most toppings are added without much cooking, although some are deep-fried. Most of these dishes may also be prepared with udon.
Cold Chilled soba is often served on a sieve-like bamboo tray called a zaru, sometimes garnished with bits of dried nori (seaweed), with a dipping sauce known as soba tsuyu on the side. The tsuyu is made of a strong mixture of dashi, sweetened soy sauce (also called "kaeshi") and mirin. Using chopsticks, the diner picks up a small amount of soba from the tray and swirls it in the cold tsuyu before eating it. Wasabi (horseradish) and scallions are often mixed into the tsuyu. Many people think that the best way to experience the unique texture of hand-made soba noodles is to eat them cold, since letting them soak in hot broth changes their consistency. After the noodles are eaten, many people enjoy drinking the water in which the noodles were cooked (sobayu), mixed with the leftover tsuyu.
Hot Soba is also often served as a noodle soup in a bowl of hot tsuyu. The hot tsuyu in this instance is thinner than that used as a dipping sauce for chilled soba. Popular garnishes are sliced scallion and shichimi togarashi (mixed chili powder). There are many restaurants serving soba, some popular ones are ZEN opposite 7/11 & RIKKI next door. Maeda in Happo and Shouan near to Hakuba train station.
On a clear day you can see ocean from atop the mountains! The Sea of Japan is quite close to Hakuba only about 40km as the crow flies, that means fresh seafood that is caught in the morning can be served that evening. Sushi and sashimi (raw fish) are delicacies loved by skiers and boarders, Kikoya near to Hakuba train station is a favourite.
Nagano is blessed with its own distinctive wines and are available at most good restaurants as well as the supermarkets and the local souvenir stores. Some of the most popular are from Château Mercian Vineyard. The wines have won a few international awards and I think most people will be pleasantly surprised. Sake, Japanese rice wine, is brewed in the resort. In Japan sake is served chilled, at room temperature, or heated, depending on the preference of the drinker, the quality of the sake, and the season. Typically, hot sake is a winter drink, and high-grade sake is not drunk hot, because the flavors and aromas will be lost. This masking of flavor is the reason that low-quality sake is often served hot. Sake is usually drunk from small cups called choko and poured into the choko from ceramic flasks called tokkuri. Saucer-like cups called sakazuki are also used The brewers take advantage of the fresh mountain water. One of our favourites is Hakuba Nishiki.
Ask for it by name in your restaurant or bar. Although no beer is actually brewed in the resort, there is a Alps brewery further down the mountain range that brews Hakuba Beer. Look for the picture of the mountains on the bottle.