Being a frequent diner at my local Japanese restaurant, I thought I had a fairly good grasp on Japanese cuisine. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to travel to Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, that my eyes were finally opened to the diversity of cuisine on offer. I’d barely scratched the surface.
Join me as I dive head first into Okinawan cuisine.
This first one isn’t food, but it goes hand in hand with Okinawan cuisine so needs to be mentioned. Awamori is a distilled version of sake made from long grain rice. Similar in flavour to whiskey, awamori is often drunk on the rocks or in cocktails, and also used as a spicy condiment infused with chilli.
Distinctly Okinawan, Soki Soba is a delicious noodle soup that usually contains thick wheat noodles, fish cake and a thick slice of pork belly or boneless pork ribs. The meat is boiled to remove excess fat, then stewed in a mixture of awamori, soy sauce and sugar for several hours.
Goya is a hard thing to explain to the uninitiated. Often referred to as a bitter melon, it looks a bit like a shrivelled cucumber… yet its bitter flavour and texture are vastly different. The most common way to eat it is in a stir-fry or soup, but it’s also available as dried crisps and a soft drink. Goya champuru is a stir-fried dish featuring thinly sliced goya, tofu, egg and pork.
This next dish might sound a little scary, but it actually tastes delicious. After boiling or steaming, the pig’s ear is thinly sliced and mixed with different flavourings. Commonly served as a side dish or snack, the cartilage adds an element of crunch to the dish. Mimiga goes great with beer.
Sata andagi is a sweet deep-friend bun made from flour, sugar and eggs. Golden brown on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, the texture is quite similar to a doughnut. Native to Okinawa, sata andagi is prepared using a mix of Japanese and Chinese techniques.
Mozuku Su doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes amazing… and judging by how often it was served to me during my week in Okinawa, chances are you’ll probably come across it too. This soft and slimy seaweed is high in minerals and low in calories. It’s commonly cooked in a marinade of vinegar and pickle vinegar, and served with a garnish of ginger or cucumber.
Longevity Meal at Emi no Mise
For the adventurous, a visit to ‘Emi no Mise’ in Ogimi Village is an absolute must. Like a crash course in Okinawan cuisine, their Longevity Meal features 14 mouth-watering dishes such as homemade golden noodles with skiikwasaa, purple sweet potato dumpling, bamboo shoots in soy broth, tempura with shrimp and fennel, and champuru (stir-fry) made with green papaya.
If there’s one bit of advice I can give anyone thinking of going to Okinawa, it’s to be adventurous. There are so many wonderful dishes that are very, very different to what we have here in Australia, so the best thing you can do is go with an open mind and be willing to try whatever is served.
If You Go
Find out more about Okinawa:
Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Japan Airlines operate daily flights between Sydney and Okinawa via Tokyo.
– I travelled as a guest of Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau and JAL