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28. Aug 2022

Hokkaido Trivia – The Story Behind a Japanese Food, Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan is a Hokkaido’s home cooking dish, usually cooked outside over a BBQ fire.  It’s probably the most popular food among all locals.  You’ll find a Genghis Khan pan (usually a round iron pan with convex, somewhat like a  bonnet in shape) in practically all households in Hokkaido!  (Just like all households in Osaka possess a Takoyaki grill pan!)

It’s a grilled dish of marinated lamb/mutton and fresh vegetables (bean sprouts a must!).  The meat is placed in the center so that the excessive liquid and oil can drip down and penetrate into the vegetables that are placed around the meat.

In spite of its name, the recipe has got nothing to do with Mongolia.  It’s a pure Japanese food created during World War One.  When the war broke out in Europe and it became difficult to import wool from UK, the government decided to endorse sheep rearing in Hokkaido as a national project to secure woolen textiles for military uniforms.  Consuming the meat was the hurdle since the strong flavor of mutton was not familiar to the Japanese at that time.  Years after years, trials after trials and finally a man in northern Hokkaido came up with the recipe to marinate the meat in thick seasoning.  The recipe might vary, but the idea to marinate the meat (either in soy sauce base or miso base) still remains in Hokkaido. 

Genghis Khan is not just a favorite outdoor food among the Hokkaidoites.  It’s a Japanese food that’s part of our history.

PS> No one knows today how this dish got its name from the famous Mongolian leader.  Maybe the strong flavor and the image of the green fields of Hokkaido gave the impression of the strong leader in the Mongolian plateau.