Tuesday, September 23, 2014

So, You Wanna Eat Like an Okinawan?

Most people think of sushi and ramen when they think of Japanese food, but what of Okinawan cuisine? With a vast difference in climate, culture, and history, there must be a difference in their cuisines, right? Below, I highlight some of the staple meals, drinks and sweets in Okinawan cuisine that are a must when visiting! Enjoy the food porn!

Main Dishes

Taco Rice - Not to be confused with Tako or Octopus, this Okinawan dish consists of taco-flavored ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato and salsa, served on a bed of rice. It is a very common meal and you can find Taco Rice almost anywhere in Okinawa. As a pescatarian, I haven't had the opportunity of taste-testing Taco Rice, but my boyfriend became a bit obsessed during his visit here. Try this Oki-Mex meal during your visit!

Click the picture for a link to a recipe 

Champuru - meaning "something mixed" in Okinawan, is a stir-fry dish and consists of either Tofu or Goya (bitter gourd) mixed with vegetables and ham, or spam. Goya is an extremely bitter vegetable that looks like Gozilla's skin. I've had Goya Champuru as a bento, in school lunches, and at restaurants but it's not my favorite dish. I prefer the Tofu Champuru over Goya Champuru, but I know people who swear by Goya. I encourage everyone to at try Goya Champuru least once, but I can't guarantee that you'll like it. Sorry!

Click the picture for a link to a recipe 

Okinawa Soba - is a noodle soup that consists of wheat noodles, instead of buckwheat noodles, that resemble udon, with ramen-esque soup. The usual toppings includes a fish mutton cake, pork slices, and ginger, with other ingredients added depending on the restaurant. Due to the ramen-like soup, this dish is not pescatarian friendly, but I've had it, sans the pork, at a local restaurant. Since then, I buy Okinawa soba noodles and cook it in vegetable stock with my own  special ingredients. 

Click the picture for a link to a recipe 


Shikuwasa Juice - is a Okinawan common lime that is made into a sour drink packed with Vitamin C. Although it's considered a common lime and can be used for cooking, this is not lime juice. It actually taste nothing like lime juice. I should know, because I hate anything lime or lemon flavored, but I can drink Shikuwasa Juice. Some foreigners, even those with a high level of Japanese, are put off by the name since it always referred to in katakana (script used for foreign words). If you're ever in Okinawa, try some!

Orion Beer - Japan's 5th largest brewery, Orion Beer, commands more than 50% of the beer market in Okinawa. Sadly, this 5% alcohol-content drink only has a 1% penetration in mainland Japan. Therefore, Orion Beer is not readily available in mainland Japan, and you may have to search for a bit to find some. Unfortunately, I can't give a review on Orion Beer, but I found a helpful video to do it for me! Watch below!

Fun Fact! One of my friends here in Okinawa was Miss Orion Beer! I see her posters all the time around the island! 
The lovely lady on the right

Awamori - is an alcoholic beverage unique to Okinawa that is made from distilled, not brewed, rice.  Awamori has a 30-40% alcohol content and because of such high demands, modern Awamori is made from Thai rice instead of Japanese rice. The most common way to drink Awamori is mixed with water or on the rocks. The taste is nothing short of rubbing alcohol, but it's a popular drink for the brave.


Chinsuko - or as I like to call them "Okinawan Crack Cookies," are a type of short bread cookie/biscuit. If you want a similar taste, head to your local supermarket and pick up a pack of Keebler Sandies. Chinsuko are popular souvenir foods, but you can find them at local supermarkets in Okinawa. My only warning is that they are really addicting! Eat with responsibility!

Sata Andaagi - are deep-fried Okinawan donuts! Sata means "sugar", anda mean "oil," and agi means "fried" in Okinawan. The Japanese equivalent to name would be sato (or "sugar") abura (or "oil") age (or "fried"). The taste of Sata Andaagi isn't unfamiliar to those who have eaten carnival food but be sure to have a glass of milk ready, because they can be a bit dry.

Click the picture for a link to a recipe 

Ben-imo - According to the famous Dr. Oz, Okinawan Sweet Potatoes or Ben-imo are a super food, rich in beta-carotene, that have "150% more antioxidants than blueberries." Is this the secret to Okinawa's longevity? Who knows! But you will find Beni-mo and Beni-mo-flavored sweets everywhere! The color may be a bid daunting, but do yourself a favor and try everything  Beni-mo. You won't regret it!!

Ben-imo Kitkat!

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm....taco rice. I sorely missed Mexican food when I lived in Japan, and now I miss stuff like that. Can't win, heh.