Here’s our round up of some of the best that Okinawa has to offer:
Okinawa soba is something you just have to try if you visit or live here. What makes Okinawa soba different to mainland dishes is that the noodles in Okinawa are made from wheat flour. In mainland Japan, they are normally made from buckwheat, as well as being normally thicker than other noodles as well.
There’s a variety of soba toppings but by far the most common in Okinawa are thick slices of pork, normally quite fatty. That’s topped off with diffferent vegetables, with sliced spring onions and red ginger also very common. Quite often you’ll also find an egg in your bowl.
As we’ve mentioned before in our etiquette guides, slurping is ok! Apart from slurping being easier, it also helps to cool the food and gives you the maximum flavour. Once you’ve eaten all the meat, vegetables and noodles, it’s perfectly acceptable to pick the bowl up and drink the broth that’s left.
For a long time this dish was found only in Okinawa, but it’s also now reached mainland Japan. Chanpuru in Okinawan means “something mixed” and apart from relating to the dish we’re talking about here, can also refer to the Okinawan culture.
Goya chanpuru normally consists of goya, which if you haven’t heard of it before, is a type of bitter melon as well as egg, tofu and normally pork meat. Due to the high level of consumption of goya in Okinawa it’s thought to be partly responsible for Okinawan longevity. It’s also thought to have a variety of other medicinal benefits including protection against diabetes as well as antiviral and anticancer properties.
If you feel like being adventurous and want to cook goya chanpuru yourself there’s a great video on YouTube that we’ve added to the Totalokinawa TV page that shows you how to make it.(www.totalokinawa.com/tv.php)
Taco rice is one of those dishes that sounds slightly crazy, hot rice with lettuce, until you try it. There are almost as many stories of how it came into being as places selling it. One story describes how a local chef invented the dish by combining tacos, popular amongst the military in Okinawa, with rice back in the ‘60s. Another story is that it was created specifically to attract Americans, by mixing rice popular in Okinawa with ground beef. Whatever the truth, taco rice is definitely a popular Okinawan dish.
Taco rice traditionally combines rice with lettuce, tomatoes, ground beef and cheese. If rice isn’t your thing, then you can often find a taco rice pizza minus the rice. If you’ve never had a pizza with lettuce, then you have to try it at least once as they taste a lot better than they sound!
Drinks – Orion Beer
If you like beer then Japan has some great choices. Okinawa’s local brew is Orion. They’ve been making beer since 1959 switching from at first a German style beer to the American style you can buy today. The best choice is a can or bottle of Orion’s draft beer.
Awamori is a rice liquor like sake, but that’s where the similarity stops. Sake is produced by brewing, whereas awamori is produced by distallation, the process originating from Thailand. Most is 60-86 proof and is served with water and ice, though you can get up to 120 proof!
Sweets – Sweet Potato – Imo
Sweet potatoes are common in many cuisines but the Okinawan sweet potato is particularly distinctive because of it’s purple color.
Okinawa has some brands you will be used to from back home, but for a local choice try Blue Seal. There’s a large shop opposite Camp Foster in Chatan, that apart from the ice cream also has some great food options.
What makes this a must visit, are the Okinawan flavours of ice cream. When we visited they had Okinawan salt cookie as well as shiquasa and of course Okinawan sweet potato!