But one thing that really stood out to me was the food (well, duh...haha). Besides the fact that people in Okinawa also share a love for Spam just like people from Hawaii, there were so many local specialties that I had never even heard of before.
|Spam Musubis in the conbinis! (with veggies and cheese? hmm...)|
|Instant Spam Curry|
The unique food and culture of Okinawa sets it apart from the rest of Japan in so many ways, and of course I was ready to get some fatty pork belly into my own belly.If you ever go to Okinawa, be sure not to miss out on these local oishii onolicious foods:
Rafute is Okinawan glazed pork belly, which is pretty much amazingness that melts in your mouth.
2. Goya Champuru
Goya, or bittermelon, is as the name implies...bitter...or so I thought. Before going to Okinawa, I was turned off by bittermelon just by its name. But the goya I ate in Okinawa was prepared in a way that got rid of most of the icky bitter nature of the vegetable. Champuru is the term for stir-fry, and there are many variations of champuru that you can make. Goya champuru typically is a stir-fry of bittermelon, spam or pork, egg, and tofu. It's a very simple and homey dish. And best of all, goya is supposedly really good for your health. I fell in love with it so much that I ate it pretty much every chance that I got...
3. Soki Soba
Soki soba is soba noodles topped with stewed pork spare ribs. The soba noodles in Okinawa are quite different from the thin, brown buckwheat noodles typically found in the rest of Japan. The noodles are a lot thicker and it reminds me of ramen more than anything. The nice chunk of meat on top is a nice addition :)
4. Taco Rice
Taco Rice pretty much sums up the Western influence in the Okinawan culture. Probably created as a result of Western influence from the American military presence in Okinawa, this dish combines the popular Tex-Mex dish with the Japanese staple in a pretty self-explanatory dish. Funny enough, I've done this at home before without realizing it was an actual "dish"...just trying to eat up taco night leftovers and no more shells? Some people might be appalled but in my opinion, anything goes well with rice!
5. Jimami Tofu
Jimami Tofu is peanut tofu. The consistency is a lot thicker and creamier than your regular tofu, and the nutty flavor of the peanut is really present. I only ate this towards the end of my trip, but I wish I had known about it earlier, because it was so delicious that I'm sad I couldn't eat more of it.
6. Umi Budo
Umi Budo or literally "sea grapes" are actually a type of sea kelp. They do look like little tiny grapes, and I was hesitant to eat them at first because it reminded me of fish eggs, which I'm not the hugest fan of. But these guys are pretty good! They are a little salty and they have a nice crunch to them, and are actually pretty refreshing--a nice addition to a fresh salad. At one restaurant they served it with goma dressing, and I must say...that is an excellent combination.
Mozuku is a type of seaweed that is found in Okinawa. It's quite slimy and usually served in vinegar. Like it's slimy partner-in-crime natto, it's not for everyone, but it's worth a try! Eat it with rice, or I heard that you can even find stuff like mozuku tempura.
8. Gurukun Fish
Gurukun is the local fish of Okinawa that can be found in many restaurants. I have never heard about it before, so I looked it up...and for all you fish buffs, apparently it's called "Double-lined fusilier". Anyway, I ate it fried, and yes it was delicious.
9. Onigiri Kamaboko
Onigiri Kamaboko is an onigiri (rice ball) wrapped in kamaboko (fish cake). I bought this from a street vendor for about 200 yen, and it was very filling. They had different fillings available, and the one I chose was filled with 黒米 or "black rice".
10. Beni Imo
Beni Imo or purple sweet potato, can be found in many shapes and forms throughout Okinawa (which is why we probably call it "Okinawan sweet potato" back home in Hawaii). I'm talking tarts, pastries, cakes, ice cream, you name it. I love this purple stuff, so of course I was excited!! I ate some Foremost Blue Seal soft serve (I haven't seen Foremost products since I was a kid, but they have it all over the place in Okinawa), a beni imo tart, and beni imo mochi thingy.
Shikuwasa is a citrus fruit that can be found in many products, especially drinks, in Okinawa. I'm not sure if shikuwasa is the same thing as calamansi (a citrus commonly found in the Philippines) but that's what it reminded me of.
Andagi is an Okinawan donut that is also popular and commonly found in Hawaii. I was ready to try out the real stuff in Okinawa. They have andagi vendors pretty much everywhere you go, so you'll have no problem finding some...and they have some cool flavors too (pumpkin, sesame, etc) if you want to try something different!
Habushu is a liqueur that has...a snake in it. I think the picture will say it all. I sampled some at the store, but I think that's enough for me! These bottles with the actual snakes in it can get reallllllly pricey...
Well that's mostly it for Okinawan food adventures! I might post another something extra in the future just because there was actually a bunch of other food that didn't make this post, but these are the must-haves on my list.
And now just cus I feel like it, some pics of porky fun: