Culinary specialties of Okinawa 沖縄料理
Okinawa goya champuru. The green parts are goya, a kind of bitter cucumber particular to Okinawa
Credit: Hajime NAKANO, Flickr
Credit: takaokun, Flickr
The secret to long life?
Vegetables and seafood have made the Okinawan diet world famous for its health benefits and its influence on life expectancy. It's no coincidence that Okinawa is home to many centenarians...
The Okinawa Islands enjoy a humid subtropical climate favorable to agriculture. Here are some of the main ingredients and culinary specialties of the archipelago.
Seafood... but that's not all
As an island chain, Okinawa of course prides itself on its fish and algae, both known to be good for the health, but vegetables and tropical fruits are also bountiful. More surprisingly, pork, not really known for its nutritional qualities, is one of the main ingredients of Okinawan cuisine. However, in the traditional cooking methods of the island, the pork is simmered for a long time, which makes it much less fatty.
Read: Japanese vegetables
Seaweed and spices
Among the most beneficial health products, grown or fished in Okinawa are turmeric, goya or bitter melon - a fruit resembling a lumpy and extremely bitter cucumber, tuna, and umibudo, the "sea grape", an algae so-called because it comes in tiny green bunches.
This is a mixture (chanpuru is pronounced "cham-ploo", and the name comes from the Malay word campur, meaning "mixture") of goya, beansprouts and other vegetables, fried with tofu and pork.
There is also somen chanpuru, very thin noodles served along with the chanpuru.
- Okinawan soba
Normally, soba are buckwheat noodles. In Okinawa, where there is no buckwheat, they are made with wheat flour. These noodles are served in a clear broth made from pork bones and katsuobushi (dried shavings of bonito fish) with pieces of pork belly, fishcake and chopped onion. In soki soba, they are also accompanied by pork ribs.
- Sumibiyaki from Agu
Agu is a black pig from the Okinawa Islands, which is cooked barbecue-style in agu sumibiyaki .
These are large chunks of pork belly stewed until tender in soy sauce and fish broth. This dish was part of the court kitchen of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
- Kyutei Ryori
From the 14th to the 19th century, Okinawa was part of the independent kingdom of Ryukyu. Kyutei ryori was the courtyard cuisine developed at this time. It was served during festive meals. Consisting of a multitude of dishes, it perfectly illustrates the huge diversity of the island's produce. Some of these dishes have been integrated into the family kitchen.
- Taco rice
The Okinawan version of the taco, this dish is a consequence of the presence of many American soldiers after the end of the Second World War. It uses the main ingredients of Mexican tacos, such as ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and salsa, but dished out on a plate of rice instead of tortillas - rice being far easier to find in Japan!
Finally, lobster, tuna and many kinds of fish are also naturally Okinawa specialties.
Drinks and desserts from Okinawa
You can wash it all down with the local drink: awamori, Okinawa rice alcohol that is about 30% alcohol.
For a sweet snack, try andagi sata, Okinawan donuts made with cane sugar from the region. Or one of the many purple potato-based desserts on offer!
Finally, enjoy tropical fruits such as the famous Okinawa pineapple.