Okinawa Ryori (Okinawan Cuisine)
Okinawa prefecture, once known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, is located in southwest Japan, and consists of beautiful tropical islands. To go to Okinawa must be fun, but in fact, it might be difficult for some people to fly over. If so, go to Okinawan cuisine restaurant! You can immerse yourself in the Okinawan atmosphere. At the entrance, a couple of imaginary animals called Shisa (Okinawan lion statues, used as talisman against evil) welcome you. Then, the staff wearing Ryukyu costume might greet you by saying “Mensoure” which means welcome in Okinawan dialect. Besides, Okinawan music being played makes us feel pleasant.
Okinawan cuisine has plenty of menus. Some are unique, and others look like Asian or American cuisine. So, let’s explore them.
A local dish called Goya Chanpuru is Okinawan people’s favorite. Nowadays, many household in Japan cook it for dinner. Goya, also known as Nigauri (Balsam pear) is tropical vegetable, green rugged surface. Chanpuru means mix, so the dish is stir-fried with sliced goya, pork, diced tofu, etc. Bonito stock is commonly used as a seasoning, and in the end beaten egg is added. While goya may have slightly bitter flavor, green smelling of goya completely disappears. I hope you enjoy the harmony of ingredients.
As I said Chanpuru means mix, there are various chanpuru dishes. Somen chanpuru is also popular. Somen is Japanese thin noodles which are usually eaten in summer season, as a cold dish. But Somen chanpuru is hot dish that is stir-fried with vegetables, tuna, or meat. Bonito stock is used, as well as other chanpuru.
It is said that almost all parts of pork are used in Okinawan cuisine. Tebichi or Tonsoku (Pig’s trotters) is often eaten in Okinawa. It is almost collagen than pork meat, since it is boiled so many hours and removed lard.
Among a lot of pork dishes, you can’t miss Rafutei or Kakuni (stewed pork) which is traditional local dish. Loaf of pork stews for several hours until it is soaking a soy-based sauce enough. So, the cubic shaped pork is easy to cut with chopsticks. You must be amazed the texture of a melt-in-your-mouth softness.
Stewed pork become softer since Awamori is used. Awamori is Okinawa’s spirits distilled from rice or millet. If you like strong liquor, try some Awamori which is complex mellow.
If you prefer seafood, of course, Okinawan cuisne serves you delicious seafood. The fish called Gurukun (Banana fish) live in the sea of Okinawa area. Fried Gurukun is very tasty, and worth trying.
As well as seafoods, seaweeds are eaten a lot in Okinawa. If you prefer to low-calorie foods, to eat seaweeds might help your diet. Mozuku seaweed is threadlike and stringy, and often seasoning with vinegar.
Also, seaweed grapes known as Umi-budou are local specialties. Beautiful long green Umi-budou like small version of grapes is also called green caviar. Grains of seaweed grapes burst in your mouth. You would excite the moment as the texture is unique. Enjoy the flavor spread out in your mouth. It is a sea-vegetable that have plenty of minerals and super low-calorie diet.
Taco rice is spicy dish which tastes Mexican tacos. Ingredients, similar to tacos such as diced tomato, avocado, lettuce, minced meat, cheese, yolk, etc, are on top of rice with good balance of colors. And you mix together until cheese begins to melt. Enjoy the exquisite flavor of Taco rice!
Okinawa soba (noodles) is another local cuisine. Like Ramen or Udon, Okinawa soba is made from wheat flour. The soup is light taste, but has the savor of stock from bonito, pork, chicken, kelp, etc. Toppings are usually sliced stewed pork, red pickled ginger, sliced long onions, etc. And there is similar noodle called Souki soba, which has stewed spare lib instead of sliced pork.
Additionally, if you interested in Okinawan ingredients and finished products, why don’t you visit a specialty shop, “Okinawan antenna shop”. A kind of cookie called Chinsukou has a variety of flavors. I hope you will find your favorite!