"Minatoya" - In Hakodate, sometimes the grilled chicken isn't what it seems...
I recently visited the wonderful Japanese yakitori (grilled chicken) shop "Minatoya" in Hakodate. It's one of the first restaurants you find when walking down the alley, and is quite popular among the locals.
Seats are only available at the counter and in the back, giving the restaurant a nostalgic atmosphere. Being this close to the cooking really whets your appetite!
After entering I quickly ordered the most popular item on the menu, the "high quality meat." The chef began to prepare the food right before my eyes!
The meat was cooked slowly over a charcoal fire.
If you take a close look close at the meat being grilled above you may notice that it isn't actually chicken at all. It's pork!
In Hakodate it seems that many yakitori restaurants actually serve mainly pork. In the southern region of Hakodate many of these restaurants label this menu item "high quality meat" and in Muroran they serve the pork with mustard and call it "Muroran Yakitori." Indeed, inside Japan there are many places where this phenomenon occurs, including cities in both Siatama and Yamaguchi prefectures.
But why does this name change happen? I asked the head of the shop about it.
"Well, I've heard that the reason is energy. Here in Hakodate we have many hard workers at Hakodate dock who prefer to eat high calorie meals because of the strain of their job. In Muroran the steel plant workers prefer the same thing, and so the shops in both places began to serve pork rather than chicken."
I also asked another important question, how to actually find grilled chicken in the shops in Hakodate!
"There are different names which specifically include the word bird in their titles ("tori" in Japanese) and of course you can also ask for grilled chicken made with chicken!"
Although it may seem a bit silly to have to specify, better safe than sorry!
At Minatoya they have purposely separated the chicken items from the pork items into sections on the menu, so just remember the the top of the menu is all pork! It seems that the amount of people ordering pork is double the amount that prefers plain old chicken.
The people of Hakodate sure love their grilled-chicken pork!
I decided to try two different kinds of sauce with the pork the chef had prepared for me. I used tamari soy sauce and a homemade "tare" sauce. To drink, I ordered the recently popular Hakodate-special "Goryokaku mojito."
The meat used here is never frozen, it's brought in fresh from Hokkaido farms which means it's tender and juicy. The taste goes really well with the mojito!
Minatoya is located just a 2-minute walk from the central hospital stop on the Hakodate tram. Locals love it, so it's a must for visitors to try as well!
For those who plant on visiting Hakodate on business or vacation, be sure to try out the local grilled-chicken pork with a delicious Goryokaku mojito!
34-2 Motomachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido)
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Nobu Kawashima)