the foods of okinawa

March 18th, 2013 / by / in: food / 1 Response

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Wah, I’m so behind on my blog posts! Sorry, internet! Since my last update, I moved to Osaka, went to Okinawa, and spent a strange weekend in Tokyo dressing up like a Japanese Lolita. But more to come on that later. First of all, I need to tell you about Okinawa!

Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan and it consists of a ton of little islands. The largest is Okinawa Island, which is where the capital, Naha, is located. We spent a couple days in Naha and a couple days in Ginowan, at a hotel on the beach. A lot of people refer to Okinawa as the Hawaii of Japan, and that’s pretty accurate. In fact, I don’t know why Japanese people love Hawaii so much when they have their own Hawaii that’s only a mere two hour flight away.

My favourite thing about Okinawa is all the local food. (Well, that and the weather. 20+ degree weather is always appreciated.) Okinawa has a ton of local specialties and a totally different cuisine from mainland Japan. So that’s what this post is about!

For our first night in Naha, we wandered into a random izakaya called Nobu for some Okinawan food. The owner, Nobukatsu, was incredibly nice and gave us tons of extras to try, like umibudo (sea grapes) and different kinds of local drinks.

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Some kind of local vegetable (kind of like a green onion), tempura-style.

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Goya chanpuru, a famous Okinawan dish. Goya is bitter melon and chanpuru is a kind of stir-fry that usually includes tofu. I know it’s supposed to scare tourists, but goya isn’t actually that bitter and the dish is very tasty! Mike got kind of obsessed with it.

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My ongoing half Japanese identity crisis: Nobukatsu said that I look Okinawan.

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A local meat dish that I don’t remember the name of!

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There’s no scale in this photo but Nobukatsu gave me some gigantic pieces of tuna sushi. I was very happy.

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Rafute, an Okinawan pork belly dish. So fatty and good.

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Umibudo (literally “sea grapes”). I love these! They pop in your mouth with salty goodness like fish eggs, but they’re a variety of seaweed. They’re like caviar from the sea! Why don’t these exist outside of Okinawa?

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Okinawan liquor. We had awamori, which is kind of like Okinawan shochu.

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Back at the hotel, I was happy to find shikwasa chu-hi. Shikwasa is an Okinawan citrus fruit. It’s kind of like yuzu, but tastes a little different. I have a weird love for citrus fruits that are otherwise unattainable in Canada. (Yuzu, shikwasa, kabosu, iyokan…)

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Mike continued his love affair with goya chanpuru.

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I had some Okinawan soba, which is not like Japanese soba at all. The noodles are similar to udon.

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Fun ice cream flavours at Blue Seal like chinsuko (Okinawan salt cookies) and beni imo (purple sweet potato). I loooooooove chinsuko. I know they’re made with lard and probably have 900000000 calories but they’re so delicious.

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Orion, the Okinawa beer.

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Not Okinawan food, just some random tasty thing I ate in an izakaya: fried edamame sticks.

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Rafute don: the Okinawan pork belly dish mentioned above, on rice.

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Sashimi lunch!

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Sata andagi, or Okinawan doughnuts. Super yummy. They have a crispy outside and soft fluffy inside.

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Muchi, which is basically mochi wrapped in some kind of local plant leaf. The leaf gives it sort of a spicy taste.

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Zenzai, or Okinawan shaved ice with red bean paste. In the rest of Japan, zenzai refers to a red bean soup.

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Mike meant to order a glass, but accidentally ordered an entire bottle of awamori one night at an izakaya. Awamori is usually around 30%-40% alcohol. Mike did not finish the bottle.

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An Okinawan taco stand, selling tacos and taco rice.

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Mike loved goya so much he had to try goya beer!

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Goya beer + grocery store bento = dinner of champions.

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These were the most gigantic onigiri that I’ve ever seen.

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Not particularly Okinawan, but cute sushi balls!

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One last goya food: goya chips for the flight home.


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