Posted 15 August 2004 - 10:07 PM
1436 Young St. Suite 103
Honolulu, HI 96814
I like to claim that Honolulu, for such a small city, provides a large number of eating opportunities that are difficult or impossible to anywhere in the United States. One of these is Okinawan food, which can be sampled at a half a dozen or more establishments around the city. I won't try to provide a survey of all of them, since pakeporkchop has done a great job already with his"Okinawan Cooking in Hawaii article in his online "What's Cooking Around Town" column (see this column as well). For more on Okinawan food, here's a thread from last year that we had in the Japan forum. If you're looking for a cookbook in English, here's an order form at Donna's site for Okinawan Mixed Plate, published by Hui O Laulima.
I will focus here on the restaurant that perhaps makes the most sustained effort to explore all the intricacies of the island kingdom's cuisine - Hatsune-ya. Until several months ago, Hastune-ya was known as Kariyushi. Now the name has changed, though the owner and the menu remain the same. I asked one of the waiters what happened, and he said that it was a sentimental thing. Apparently, owner's parents owned a small pushcart eatery in Okinawa many years ago called Hatsune-ya, and changing the name was his way of paying respect to them.
The menu at Hatsune-ya is full-bore Okinawan. Most of what is served here could never pass for cuisine of the "yamatunchu" (mainland Japanese). Yes, there is some tempura for those looking for something more familiar, but everything else is proudly and even nationalistically (?) Okinawan, and even the tempura is nativized with goya (bitter melon), gurukun (a kind of native reef fish), and souki (pork spareribs). Perhaps not at all ironically, about half the restaurant's patronage seems to come from Japanese tourists and resident nationals, since it has been written up in a number of Japanese magazines as serving some of the finest Okinawan food anywhere.
For those of you who are not familiar with Okinawan cuisine, don't be fooled by the rash of books and articles that have come out in recent years touting the uniquely healthy nature of the Okinawan diet. Yes, Okinawans (particularly the older ones who have not fallen to the allure of Tulip and McDonald's) are quite healthy, and have some of the longest average life spans in the world. Yet the traditional Okinawan diet is not all roots and leaves. Indeed, its star ingredient, one that shows up in a bewildering number of guises in many different dishes, is pork - often fairly fatty pork at that. Yes, traditionally it was eaten in small amounts, but that's not true of restaurant food (which is, after all, basically banquet food), where large quantities are in order.
The Okinawan have been eating pork for several hundreds of years, most of it during the period in history when the (mainland) Japanese viewed animal products as unfit for food use. Indeed, pork-eating was perhaps the key feature of the Okinawan stereotype among those mainlanders during the time of increasing interaction between the two in the early 20th century. Children of Okinawan immigrants to Hawai`i were often teased by their yamatunchu counterparts with the slogan "Okinawan ken-ken buta kau-kau.
Ken is the Japanese for prefecture, which Okinawa was by then, after the abolishment of the Shuri kingdom in 1872 and annexation a few years later. Kau-kau's use in conjunction with this is interesting, if only because it is a Hawai`i pidgin word derived from Cantonese, meaning basically food, with the connotation being everyday food. So you can assemble the meaning of the phrase for yourself. . .
BTW, I will try not to overload this review with history, but it keeps popping back in, as food has become one of the primary areas in which Okinawa's often-uncomfortable relationship with Japan (and with the U.S., for that matter) is played out.
Two of Okinawa's most famous dishes are goya champuru and rafute. I ordered both as set meals as part of an early-bird special.
This is actually the "buta-nasu-goya" champuru, made with pork (buta), eggplant (nasu), and bitter melon (goya, or in standard Japanese, nigauri). Champuru is basically a stir-fry of tofu, usually with pork, as well as at least one vegetable. The stir-frying, like the use of pork, reflects the close political and cultural relationship that the Okinawan kingdom had with China, much closer than with Japan, until invasion by the Satsuma domain at the beginning of the 17th century. In the traditional dish, the tofu and pork are generally cooked for a fair amount of time in a generous quantity of oil or lard until they are both crisp. Hatsune-ya's version is relatively nouvelle - very little residual oil, and the ingredients are cooked only until barely done. However, the eggplant seems to have been very quickly deep-fried over high heat before stir-frying, giving it an extremely crisp covering.
As you can see, the set meal comes with a ball of rice and a quasi-Western salad of avocado, tomato, cucmbers, lettuce, wilted onions, cabbage, and shredded wakame seaweed. There are little shavings of kanpyo (gourd), an interesting raw ahi salad with creamy sesame-tofu dressing, and small balls of purple Okinawan sweet potato pureed . All very pleasant and agreeable, and admirably healthy.
The next dish is not so healthy. Rafute is soy-simmered pork belly (sanmainiku) - it can be seen as a close relative of a number of similar Chinese dishes (such as Su Tongpo Pork), but with the difference that its simmering liquid includes large amounts of awamori, Okinawa's native single-distilled firewater. Naturally, the awamori loses its potency as it cooks, and furthermore Hatsune-ya dresses up its rafute with chunks of carrot, daikon, bok choy, and a cute little bow of konbu (kelp leaf). So you end up getting something suprisingly dainty.
As this fuzzy closeup shows, the rafute is about half-fat and half-lean. You are supposed to nibble away at small amounts, taking chunks that mix both fat and lean. Good luck. The tempatation is really to swallow it whole without chewing, since it's so succulent and gelatinous that chewing is completely unnecessary. At least try to take in a bit of rice in between swallows.
To supplement these set dishes, we ordered a couple of things ala carte. This is ashitibichi nitsuke, simmered pigs feet. Pigs feet, as well as intestines (nakami) and spareribs (souki) are found in many forms on the menu. Nitsuke is a simple "hotpot" preparation with daikon and more little bows of konbu. Pig's feet are fussy to eat, but the chewy cartilegous flesh between the toes can become addictive after awhile. Just ask my son - you wouldn't expect an 8-year old to be begging for more pigs feet, but there you are.
Here's black rice (kuromai) served with little fried garlic slivers, red ginger (benishoga), and small amounts of smashed fried egg. Black rice seems to be experiencing a bit of a boom in Japan right now, with all sorts of unlikely health-giving qualities given to it. It is not strictly an Okinawan product (most of what is consumed in Japan and here comes from China), but it is after all a tropical crop, and its robustness and nutty flavor fits in better with Okinawan food than with that of the North. The nuttiness is accentuated by their fried garlic, but offset by the sharpness of the ginger and the blandness of the egg. I could eat a lot of this.
Here's the desert that came with the set menu. Our choice of ice cream - we picked bitter melon and Okinawan sweet potato. Uh, fairly pleasant . . . I can't say that the flavor of vegetable came out that strongly in either one - but perhaps that is a good thing.
The restaurant is actually quite small (six or seven tables, I believe). I don't know where that picture of George H.W. came from. The menu specials are listed in Japanese on the wall - though I'm sure the waiter would be happy to let you know what they are in English if you ask.
Hatsune-ya is hidden in a little corner of an office / apartment building on the mauka (mountain) side of Young St., between Kaheka and Keeaumoku. You can't even see it from the street - so make sure you check the address and don't get lost!
Posted 15 August 2004 - 10:29 PM
Thanks for reviewing this place. I was going to stop by again in due time. The food here is excellent and much better than Sunrise (in Kapahulu).
Posted 16 August 2004 - 09:33 PM
It is a very good site, showing history, ingredients, etc.
Posted 16 August 2004 - 09:46 PM
Posted 17 August 2004 - 11:05 PM
I take it you have some experience living in Okinawa - could you tell us a little more about the experience. So the Orion comes before the awamori - is it a matter of having the light stuff before the heavy stuff. Do people ever drink regular shochu instead of awamori?
Are there any particular foods that are supposed to go particularly well with awamori?
Posted 18 August 2004 - 09:03 PM
I lived for over 5 years in Okinawa, returning about a year and a half ago. Trying hard to get back there. It's a great place. Great food, great drink, great people!
Where I lived in Hamby Town, located in Chatan, were quite a few places (restaurants, izakayas, little hole in the walls, etc. One thing about the peopple of Okinawa they love to eat and drink. Within a 15 minute walk of my apartment were a couple dozen places. Hamby Town is a newer area, being developed only 15 years ago on a former airfield. Any older folks would know it as Hamby Aarmy Airfield. But it's the place to be.
One izakaya about a minute's walk from my apartment was my favorite, called Yoichi. I have a menu so maybe I'll take pictures of it and submit them to you. Izakayas are like the small plate thing happening now in the US, but it's been the mainstay for a long time in Japan.
Happy hour from 5 to 7 PM with mugs of Orion or Kirin draft beer for 190 yen. Normal price 400 yen. So after work would go there to have a few and eat something if I felt lazy about cooking.
Hard to tell about all the dishes available, but favorites were goya chanpuru, two different kinds of deep fried fish, one of which was flounder that was so deep fried you ate everything - bones, head fins, etc. And sashimi. If it was with other friends or co-workers and everyone wanted to continue because of some celebrartion, then the awamori would be ordered.
Awamori is drunk all ways - mixed with water and ice, on the rocks or straight w/ water back, or beer back, to each his/her own. Of course if it continued more food is ordered to pick on.
There was a local bar on the ground floor where I lived. Just a long bar with a few tables, and with one lounge area with sofas. So I spent a lot of time there. You can buy a bottle of awamori that you enjoyed and have a "keep" there. Same all over. And these types of bars open late, usually at 8 PM.
Met lots of people and became friends with a bunch. A lot of them would come in and order a beer or two, then start with the awamori. Have a lot of stories. Maybe I should start up my own web site.
Another fantastic memory is of my neighbors. The building I lived in had only 2 floors of aprtments, 3 apartments per floor. Was a small building. My 3rd. floor neighbors were a Japanese dentist and his wife, and another Japanese lady who worked for Cisco Systems. The dentist spoke good English and the Cisco lady (as my daughter called her) spoke very good English. The dentist was from Kobe and his wife was from Osaka. The Cisco lady was also from Osaka. But each weekend one of us would have a dinner. The dentist's wife is a great cook, and I eaten so many fine dishes of hers. But the best has to be her sukiyaki with Kobe beef.
My dinners consisted of Hawaiian style or Chinese foods. The favorite of everyone has to be Chinese steamed ground pork stuffed bitter melon with black bean sauce. The Okinawans know bitter melon or goya but always stir fried. So after that, I made it quite often, plus even had a little class time to show them how to make it. Other favorites were my char siu baby back ribs that I cooked on the grill. Though they did enjoy steak a lot.
But they enjoyed black bean shrimp and Chinese style steamed fish. Okinawan markets did not have Chinese parsley (cilantro) but the commissary brought it in. The dentist from Kobe (lots of Chinese onfluence there) enjoyed it so much, he used to just munch on it as a pupu. So whenever there was Chinese parsley I always bought a lot and gave him. Chinese food is Japan is different, a lot sweeter to me. I didn't like it too much. That's why I cooked my own.
Having commissary priviledges, meat is very cheap. Cheaper than here in Hawaii. Beef in Japan is very, very, very expensive. The commissary also sold Redondo's Portuguese sausage, and that went over like gang busters. Heat and burn a little it on the grill then slice it.
Taught them about poke too. Since there's no ogo like we have here in Hawaii, on trips home I used to take back fresh ogo to Okinawa, than freeze it in salt water so I would always have ogo. Another good thing is the Noh poke mix with the freeze dried ogo. Not bad stuff. There's another story, getting inspected at customs with ogo in my luggage.
Think I've gone on too long. Will give another chapter again.
Edited by pake, 18 August 2004 - 10:16 PM.
Posted 18 August 2004 - 09:28 PM
Here is a link to a page that has some places.
Kitadaichi is my favorite. They have since changed their name to Yoichi but not on this website. My "regular" table was the one in the corner to the left.
Another favorite is Najimi. 5 minute drive from my apartment. A real mon and pop place. Always crowded. Check out the site. My favorites are the Soki Nitsuke or the Tebichi Nitsuke. The picture is of the Soki Nitsuke. Very, very filling. Cannot finish all the rice, usually asked them for only half.
Posted 19 August 2004 - 12:01 AM
I'm going to take a chance here and surface some issues that have been brewing for some time in the Okinawan food community. I raise them as a means of discovering food traditions and not to stir up rivalries or ill feelings.
As you know, Hawaii has the oldest and largest Okinawan community in the United States of America. The immigrants brought early cooking traditions with them.
Sensei Yamada, formerly of Kariyushi and now of Hatsune-ya, reportedly was born of Okinawan parents in Taiwan and received cooking instruction in New York and Okinawa.
This personal history, in some minds, does not yield Okinawan dishes that suit traditional or local (Hawaiian) tastes.
I would be very interested in hearing from knowledgable and experienced travelers, such as Pake, about their views and experiences in relation to these issues. If commentars and reviewers wish to abstain, I will understand.
Posted 19 August 2004 - 09:47 AM
pake - great story of your eating experiences in Okinawa. I liked your reporting on the variety of Awamori drinks that are on offer. More than anything else, it shows that awamori is more than just a cultural symbol for Okinawans - it's a part of their everyday lives.
Your story about bringing in ogo all the way from Hawai`i was great - I guess no ag inspection like here in Hawai`i? Wonder how your Japanese friends reacted to ogo - I guess the kind of Japanese seaweed it is closest to is hijiki. Sounds like a great living arrangement you had. I'm sure you could write a lot more about your experiences there - looking forward to hearing more from you!
PPC - was not at all aware of the possible rift that existed among the Okinawan restaurant communiites. I do agree that it is something that should be discussed in a civil manner.
I'm aware that Yamada is different from many of the other Okinawan restauranters here in that he does not come up from the local Okinawan immigrant populoation that was responsible for much of the early restaurant history here - e.g. the Kaneshiros, Teruyas, and their many fellow local uchinanchuu.
And it is clear that Hatsune-ya makes no attempt to define a "local-style" Okinawan cuisine. Since I haven't been to the other places that owned by kama`aina families I can't really speak to the distinct characteristics of local-style Okinawan, though there may be.
However, I was not aware that Mr. Yamada was born in Taiwan. However, the fact that he spent only (?) years in Okinawa is not of itself a reason to view his cuisine as proplematic. I would be interested in why his dishes do not suit traditional tastes - is it perhaps, as I mentioned, the fact that the champuru is cooked only very lightly and not until crisp? Or something else?
Posted 19 August 2004 - 10:41 PM
Thanks SK for putting in the comment of being civil.
There are dishes in Okinawa that surely would be welcome here in Hawaii. Did you check the site of Najimi I pointed out? Soki nitsuke would do very well here. I even learned how to make it. Along with rafute.
As far as the chanpuru, there's one place that makes it with canned corned beef hash. Is good! All in the vein of the long American presence there.
There's another dish I love in Okinawa that would do well here. Called hone jiru. Made in the same method of Hawaii's oxtail soup but uses pork backbones instead. Boiled for a long period, no shoyu. Served with slightly cooked local veggies and a fairly big dollop of grated ginger. Very good!
One dish that would NOT go over here is the yagi jiru. Same thing as above but made with yagi - that's goat! That dish you have to grow up on. Very UNIQUE smell.
Another observation is the Okinawans love of corn. There's corn soup in all the restaurants. Okinawan children love it. Seems to be like watered down cream corn to me. Remember when I first served canned corn to my neighbors, heated up with butter. They love it, so always served it after. Very expensive for a little can of corn in Japanese supermarkets. When fresh corn was available in the commissary it was a fantastic treat for my friends. I've always wonder about this like of corn. For us it just and easy vegetable to have!
Edited by pake, 19 August 2004 - 10:43 PM.
Posted 19 August 2004 - 11:20 PM
I think this is all Japan, not just Okinawa. It is inevitable that in most cheap to middle range places that when soup is included with a meal it is going to be the corn soup you described. It is definitely a favorite with the kids, especially for breakfast....
Another observation is the Okinawans love of corn. There's corn soup in all the restaurants. Okinawan children love it. Seems to be like watered down cream corn to me.
Great thread by the way!
There has also a new thread in the Japan forum about Okinawan vegetables:
Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"
Posted 20 August 2004 - 12:22 AM
Posted 20 August 2004 - 12:50 AM
I guess yagi jiru is one thing that probably won't appear on the local menus! Interesting about the many ways that Okinawans consume canned meats / fish. Did you eat a lot of Tulip or Spam when you were there?
Kristin, thanks for the link to the Okinawan vegetables thread!
Posted 21 August 2004 - 05:02 PM
When i was in Hawaii I often heard Okinawans comment on the differences between Hawaii Okinawan food and food in Okinawa. A common theme seemed to be that it was sweeter in Hawaii.
And another issue was the famous purple sweet potato. Some people told me that was more Hawaiian than Okinawan although associated with Okinawa in Hawaii.
Any comments from all you very knowledgeable people?
Posted 23 August 2004 - 09:53 PM
Being from Hawaii I love Spam. Ate it in the usual way fried slices or in omelets, but also used it in my goya chanpuru when I needed a quick meal. Don't think I ever bought Tulip as it was just as expensive in Japanese markets as Spam. Since Spam was very cheap at the commissary I always bought that.
This place my co-workers and I went to lunch every couple of weeks had this dish they called nishime. Not like nishime as we know it, but the dish in the Okinawan Cuisine site called Nunkwa. At this place, besides konyaku, daikon, egg, belly pork, tofu, there were slices of Spam or Tulip, plus konbu knots. Served with a bowl of soba and a bowl of rice. Was 800 yen I think. Very filling but delicious! Was hard to work in the afternoon!
As far as the purple sweet potato I don't know too much. Have to ask my Okinawan friends about it. Only thing is the purple sweet potato chips they have in Okinawa is great!
Edited by pake, 23 August 2004 - 10:09 PM.
Posted 24 August 2004 - 02:41 AM
That nishime / nunkwa that you described reminds me of the Korean "budae cchigae" which came out of the areas surrounding the military bases in Seoul. It takes a traditional Korean hotpot (cchigae) made with kimchee and pork or beef, replacing the latter with Spam and hotdogs!
Rachel, there are good reasons to call the purple sweet potato "Okinawan", though what you have been told also has an element of truth in it as well.
Both the yellow and purple sweet potato have been widely eaten in Okinawa. The yellow sweet potato is nowadays generally called the Satsuma imo, as it is in mainland Japan. Satsuma is a former feudal domain in Kyushu; "imo" simply means potato. However, this type of sweet potato probably arrived in Okinawa directly from China rather from Satsuma, and indeed was the primary staple of much of the Okinawan population for centuries prior to the widespread availability of rice since the 1950s and 60s.
The purple sweet potato, called beni imo (purple potato), has been around in Okinawa for a much shorter time, and as far as I understand has never been a staple. However, it has undergone a boom in popularity in recent years, and now more of it is consumed than the yellow version. Furthermore, it is identified both by Okinawans themselves and Japanese mainlanders as a distinctive Okinawa product.
It is identified more specifically with Okinawa's Yomitan Village. Locals believe that the purple sweet potato was developed there by the farmer Sakugawa Seisuke in the 19th century, and the "Yomitan beni imo" is still one of the village's major sources of income. The village holds a "Murasaki matsuri" (Violet Festival) every year to honor their famous product. BTW, I found an interesting comment by a descendant of Sakugawa's on some of this history. I haven't been able to find any information on how the potato is said to have been developed, or what relationship if any it has to the Filipino ube purple sweet potato.
At any rate, a rather convoluted answer. . .
Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:53 PM
Thanks to both of you for such helpful answers. Loved your detailed stories, Sun-Ki. Dredging my memory for the person who told me that purple sweet potato was not the traditional Okinawan sweet potato I think it was either Izzie Abbot or Doug Yen, both of them I don't have to tell the likes of you great ethnobotanists. So it's great to see the science and the history converging.
Figuring out the ube/purple sweet potato story would be fascinating. There must have been trade.
I also found it interesting that Okinawan Cookery and Culture which I think when it was published in Hawaii in the 1970s was the only English-language Okinawan cookbook barely mentions sweet potato. Presumably this was because it was too common or everyday. Such cookbooks do tend to be heavy on meaty and upmarket dishes.
Posted 01 September 2004 - 02:59 PM
Posted 01 September 2004 - 09:59 PM
Edited by pake, 01 September 2004 - 10:00 PM.
Posted 08 September 2004 - 02:01 AM
Oh well, I did get the requisite, standard picture of Andagi frying. Here it is:
And if you want to see some Begin stuff, check out their <a href="http://www.begin1990....com/">official site</a>.
Posted 11 October 2004 - 06:57 PM
Sorry, I haven't had time to plung in for awhile and missed the miscommunication flap resulting from my posting on this thread.
Pake, I certainly did not intend any disrespect to anyone and certainly not to you.
I was referring to Sensei Yamada's personal history and cooking techniques. The reference to you, if you read the thread carefully, was to ask for your advice as a Okinawa resident and traveler.
SK, you and Rachel correctly read my question about the perceived difference between Sensei Yamada's cooking and those of other restaurants in Hawaii. My uneducated guess is that Yamada explores Okinawan haute cuisine, on the one hand, and reflects Asian and/or New York tastes, on the other, while most of the other restaurants are content to serve "traditional" (Okinawan/Local?) dishes, on the other.
I have been to Okinawa, Kariyushi, Hatsuneya, and the other dozen Okinawan places in Honolulu and I love 'em all. My next review will be Hanagasa Inn as soon as they bring the minyo band in (yes, Kiyoko "Sandy" Toya is back!).
Food Zealot, I'm surprised that you haven't developed a sweet potato dough wrap for the Oki-dog! Take a look at the Anda-dog and see how they do it.
Posted 11 October 2004 - 09:35 PM