Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eating Okinawa

A couple of months ago, I went to Okinawa for a few days.  Lots of people say that Okinawa is so similar to Hawaii, and in many ways I agree.  The laid back atmosphere was quite refreshing and it really did remind me of home.  As they say in Okinawa, "Nankurunaisa" which essentially means "Don't worry, be happy."  No worries, brah.

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:

1.  Rafute
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.

7.  Mozuku
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.

11. Shikuwasa
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.

12.  Andagi
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!

13.  Habushu
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:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Seoul Food Ep. 4: A-La-Mode-y

Can I get the, uh, waffles? And, um, what does "a la mode-y" mean? Oh that means it comes with ice cream!
Ok. A la mode-y then.

-Little Miss Sunshine

While walking around Seoul I noticed a trend: cafes around almost every corner!  Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Gloria Jeans, etc. I even spotted a Starbucks sign written in Hangul while strolling around Insadong

We didn't go inside the Starbucks, but we did check out a couple of local cafes in Seoul, and I had to try their decadent waffles topped with whipped cream, ice cream, fruits, etc.  Or as Olive from Little Miss Sunshine says, A la mode-y!  You can find these sweet treats at almost every cafe in the city.

matcha ice cream & azuki a la mode-y

healthy a la mode-y: strawberry & yogurt

strawberry & mac nut ice cream a la mode-y, fruit, and whip cream!
...and since ice cream usually makes everything better, I also ordered an ice cream float.  Eva ordered a Kahlua mocha, and it came with whiskers.  Even the spoons had faces!

Matcha Ice Cream Float

Meow.  Nyan!  What noise does a cat make in Korea?


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Friday, April 20, 2012

Seoul Food Ep. 3: Can't Beat the Basics

Sorry it's been a while since the last post, I've been traveling (and therefore eating) a lot.  A quick preview of foodpics to come: adventures in Okinawa, Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, to-die-for sushi in Takaoka, best meal in Japan EVER and more.

But for now, let me continue my bloggage about my trip to Seoul.

While in Korea, I had to try the random novelty items like the french-fry dog I posted in Seoul Food Ep. 1 but more importantly I was excited to try out the "authentic" versions of the food that I often eat in Korean restaurants in Hawaii or Japan.  How did it compare?  Let's just say...Yummy's (a Hawaii chain), while I love your garlic potato salad and meat jun, I don't think I'll ever find a combination like that in Korea...and Gyu-kaku (an international yakiniku chain), you shouldn't charge us for kim chee and lettuce to wrap our meat in!  Here are my top 3 Korean food favorites that I devoured in Seoul:

1.  Mandoo

Oops, why did I always think that mandoo was deep fried?  I guess lots of places in Hawaii serve them that way, but while in Seoul we ate the boiled versions.  It was a simple yet very satisfying meal, and the flavors were very light--a nice contrast to the spicy kim chee and other side dishes!

Went to a restaurant that Eva found on a blog, called Koong located in Insadong.
30-11 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Ph# 02-733-9240

2.  Yakiniku

All I have to say is...I can't believe how CHEAP our yakiniku meal was!  I went with a group of 5 girls, and we split the bill...we each paid under 5 dollars.  Crazy!  Best part was the abundance of free sides.  Wrapping meat in lettuce smothered in gochujang sauce and grilled slices of garlic and grilled kim chee???  My mouth is watering all over again. 

We ate at a place located near Hongik University (don't remember the name, but there's lots of cheap yakiniku places in that area according to my friend living in Korea).

3.  Bi Bim Bap (and other organic goodies)

Bi bim bap is a dish that, to me, is a beautiful harmony of all things you ever wanted in a single bowl...meat, veggies, rice, and usually an egg.  A flawless combination.

Eva found another awesome place on a blog, and it was something different that I was excited to try--an organic restaurant!  The restaurant was a cozy yet modern restaurant filled with what seemed to be local business men and women on lunch break.  The menu was all in Korean, but luckily the lady who took our order knew some English.  In addition to bi bim bap, we ordered soybean paste soup (I suppose their version of miso).  I was pleasantly surprised when so many side dishes came with the meal as well, including fish and miniature scallion pancakes (my favorite part of the meal). 

Ecotable (에코 밥상)
Seoul-si, Jongno-gu, Jeokseon-dong, 94 Beonji, Hu Building, 2nd Floor 
Located near Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 4
It's not an obvious find, but look for a building with the restaurant's leaf logo on the 2nd floor.

Look for this sign!

Red rice for the Bi bim bap

Veggie Bi Bim Bap

Soybean Paste Soup...a tad spicy!

The sides

Scallion Pancakes (Can I call them silver dollars?)
Up Close: tiny fishies
Gobo (burdock)
Kim cheeeee


After we finished, they gave us a roasted rice soup/tea
with rice crackers!

All Pau!