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Okinawa


torakris
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Okinawa the southernmost prefecture of Japan, and once as the Ryukyu Kingdom an insular isalnd nation with closer ties to China then Japan, has a culture far quite different from that on mainland Japan.

Thus it has different foods as well,

any favorites?

Anyone insterested in a brief history of Okinawa can look here:

http://www.niraikanai.wwma.net/pages/base/conc.html

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I love Okinawan food, but I've only spent a few days there- haven't tried much.

Rafuti is amazing! I couldn't get enough of it, either on it's own or topping a bowl of 'Okinawa soba'. 'Souki soba' is nice too, but more work (I don't know what cut of pork it is, but it has lots of bones).

I actually like goya, but it can be too bitter depending on how it's prepared. If it has gone through all or some of the preparations designed to remove the bitterness- salt rubbing, soaking in water, parboiling in water or dashi- it can be good. Goya champuru is my favourite.

I loved the fruit and drinks too- 'sanpincha' is a mix of jasmine and green tea- with so many kinds of bottled tea sold in mainland Japan, I wonder why sanpincha hasn't caught on yet?

And there was this juice made from a small green citrus fruit- can't remember what it was called but it was really refreshing.

Oh yeah, another thing I've forgotten- this seaweed that looks like tiny bunches of grapes. That was good stuff!

I am now searching for champuru recipes for tonight's dinner...

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Have you ever had Andagi? Deep fried little balls (like donut holes, kind of)... they are the best, although I prefer them made with white sugar rather than the traditional black - kurosato that Okinawa is famous for. They are crisp on the outside, dense, yet fluffy on the inside... and wonderfully greasy!

My grandmother likes to experiment with these. she'll put things in the center.. chocolate chips, raisins... and once tuna fish :blink:

In my humble opinion she makes the best, the home made ones are often done with a tail (professionals will look down their noses at anything but a perfectly round one as this is a sign of technique). My gran's are made with the tail and that part is super crunchy. Makes for a good textural difference.

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My daughter's best friend's mother is Okinawan and the first time I ever went to her house she made these for us.

I don't really care for deep fried foods and although good I found the andagi a little to greasy for my taste. The kids loved them though.

I have only been to Okinawa onceand spent the whole time fascinated with the food (I was surprised just how different it was from the mainland) that I didn't see any of the isalnd!

I came back with a suitcase of Okinawan soba, anyhting made from the purple potato, pineapple tea, the little grape like thing Smallworld mentioned, etc, etc.

There is an Okinawan restaurant that just opened near my house (there really aren't too many of them on the mailand) and these have Okinawan music concerts about once a month. It is really a lot of fun and the food is great!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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That's a great website Torakris, my mom happens to be in Okinawa right now... and I'm tempted to see what she can bring home and keep for when I visit her this Easter! (home is Chicago, I live in England now).

I wonder what Customs will let her bring over the borders? She usually brings andagi and puts it in the freezer for me.. and kurozato which I hate but they insist is good for you... she used to bring sugar cane which I'm sure is illegal (you can't bring plants across borders can you?) and now that American airports use those cute little beagles, I'm sure they'd find her out.

green citris fruit.. what could that be? Whenever I'm there we eat... giant grapefruit, tiny bananas - monkey bananas, papaya, and or mango.... but I have no idea what this green citris fruit is.

Have you been to the market in Naha? Fun to bring western friends and show them the strange and curious things!

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I'm really happy to be able to talk about Okinawan food with you guys. Torakris, I also spent my few short days in Okinawa completely fascinated by the food, and my sister-in-law and her husband were just as enthusiastic- they came with a mental list of exotic things they had to try.

Since then I've met so many people who have been to Okinawa, but none of them seem to have any special interest in the food. What a shame- it's such an amazing cuisine, and obivously healthy, considering the longetivity of Okinawans.

I was looking forward to trying Okinawan donuts- I thought they'd be just as you described them, Akiko:

They are crisp on the outside, dense, yet fluffy on the inside... and wonderfully greasy!

But the ones I tried weren't crunchy at all- just dense, dry and greasy. I was disappointed and didn't try them again- was that a mistake? Were these just badly made?

I found out the name of the little green citrus fruit: 'si-qua-sa', also known as shi-qua-sa, hirami, or hirami-lemon. I don't think it's eaten as a fruit- it's too sour- but it's used as a garnish and to make drinks.

As a canned drink it can be found anywhere, both as a soda and as a fruit juice, heavily sweetened I'm sure but really good.

Si-qua-sa juice and sampin-cha are two things I really wish I was able to find in Tokyo!

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Smallworld,

andagi, like french fries are hard to keep crispy... the longer the time from frying to your mouth, the soggier they get. There is a particular vendor in Naha that is famous for being able to make andagi that stays "ever crispy", I'll ask my mom and post its name, I can't remember what it is.

The bakery sells these for omiyage and I'll bring them home with me... all it takes to almost replicate that "just out of the fryer" taste, is to pop it in the toaster!

It's sort of like chocolate chip cookies... never tastes as good as when they are just out of the oven.

then again, there are lots of bad andagi out there...

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how can we forget mozuku, the sea vegetable?

Smallworld, maybe we we can have an "Official Egullet Dinner" at an Okinawan restaurant in Tokyo?! :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Sounds good! I'm always trying to get my husband to come with me to an Okinawan restaurant, but he claims he doesn't like Okinwan food. This is despite the fact that he's never been to Okinawa and never tried the food, except for some champuru I made and some soki soba I gave him as a souviner (which he loved!).

If such a dinner occurs, I hope it is topped off by a dessert of freshly made andagi, because I'm really regretting not finding good ones when I was in Okinawa!

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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  • 5 weeks later...

How about: Ashitibichi (Pig's Feet Soup)?

Also, for your amusement, I wanted to provide a long excerpt from the records of the party of Commodore Perry, who visited Okinawa in 1853-4:

. . . A pair of chop-sticks was placed at each corner of every table; in the centre was an earthen pot filled with sakee. (the intoxicating drink made by the Lew Chewans), surrpounded with four acorn cups, four large, coarse China cups, with clumsy spoons of the same material, and four teacups.  On each table were dishes to the number of some twenty, of various sizes and shapes, and the exact basis of some of which no American knoweth to this day; possibly it was pig.  Of the dishes, however, which were familiar to western apprehension there were sliced bolied egges, which had been dyed crimson, fish made into rolls and boiled in fat, pieces of cold baked fish, slices of hog's liver, sugar candy, cucumbers, mustard, slated radish tops, and fragments of lean pork, fried.  Cups of tea were first handed round; these were followed by very small cups of sakee, which had the taste of French liqueur.  Small banboo sticks, sharpened at one end, and which some of the guests mistook for toothpicks, were furnished, to be used as forks in taking balls of meat and dough from the soup, which made the first course.  Soup consisted also the next seven course of the twelve, whereof the repast consisted.  The other four were gingerbread, salad made of bean sprouts and young onion tops, a basket of what appeared to be some dark red fruit, but proved to be artificial balls composed of a thin dough rind covering a sugard pulp, and a deliciou mixture compuded of beaten eggs and a slender white root with an aromatic taste.  .  .

  .  .  . As to the culinary skill that had been employed in preparing the regent's feast, there were certainly dishes of the composition of which the guests were ignorant, but still they were, in general, savory and very good; much more so that those presented by Chinese cookery.

(!)

This was excerpted in the book Okinawan Cookery and Culture by

Hui O Laulima, the Woman's chapter of the United Okinawan Association in Hawai`i. But I think it's excerpted in other places including (?) a collection of

translated Japanese diaries by Donald Keene.

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

I am enjoying this thread very much. My mother's side of the family is Okinawan, but for the most part, I am not familiar with these dishes. I do remember my great grandmother always had boiled pork and pork stock around. When we would visit, she would not let us leave without making something simple for us, like frying up some boiled pork slices and frying somen noodles so they were just a bit crispy. My family and I have tried to recreate that taste many times, but no success so far. She would also make a stew with chicken, gobo, konbu, takenoko and araimo. Also, many simple okazu-type dishes with just a few ingredients, like string beans, onions, potatoes and small pieces of pork.

Andagi are notoriously leaden and greasy, especially at fairs and bon dances. I believe people just work up too much gluten by stirring, and are so obsessed with the andagi being perfectly round that they add too much flour - making the it more like a dough, easier to handle, spherical, but tough. Just like overmixed muffins, they often have tunnels running through them. My sister calls these rubber biscuits.

~Tad

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my part Okinawan dinner:

rafuti and goya champuru

Great pictures! Your goya champuru seems to be authentically crusty brown and stirred up, not like the namby-pamby kind that you sometimes see in Japanese housewife's cookbooks. The rafute looks delicious . . .

By the way, there's an Okinawan restaurant here in Honolulu called Kariyushi, though I haven't had a chance to try it. My wife can't eat pork (no she's not Muslim or Jewish, just somehow turned off by it).

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Your goya champuru seems to be authentically crusty brown and stirred up

I'll take that as a compliment.... :blink::biggrin:

It is the highest form of praise of which I am capable. . .

Stream of consciousness . . . someone should research the "Okinawan Paradox" analogous to the "French Paradox". Something about people whose diet seems to contain unholy amounts of pig fat yet (on average) live longer than just about anyone else in the world. When I saw the Okinawan Diet book on the best-seller lists I had a hard time supressing laughter. Lose weight by eating Andagi and Rafute? I guess those are probably not what the book emphasizes. . .

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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  • 7 months later...

Aloha! I'm sending links to articles about Okinawan cooking in Hawaii. The footnotes will provide some notion about the healthfulness of the Okinawan diet.

The Okinawan community in Hawaii is the largest in the United States and recently hosted a world-wide convention of Uchinanchu in Honolulu.

http://www.hawaii.rr.com/leisure/reviews/a...9_ocihawaii.htm

http://www.hawaii.rr.com/leisure/reviews/a...ooanokazuya.htm

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Although it isn't what I would consider "traditional" Okinawan food, taco rice seems to have its origins in Okinawa. I had this for lunch on Saturday, it had actually been years since I have eaten it and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

This seems to be popping up in more or more places, especially cafe style restaurants on the lunch menus and it is a great lunch.

For those unfamiliar with it, it is basically taco toppings (seasoned ground beef, salsa, lettuce, cheese and hot sauce on the side) all served on top of rice. They even sell kits in the supermarkets for making it at home:

http://takara.ne.jp/tacorice/

scroll down for a homemade version

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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From the NY Times: "Older Okinawans clinging to the islands' traditionally healthful diet still boast the longest life expectancy in Japan, the country with the world's longest-living people. But younger islanders, who grew up coveting the America they peeked at inside the bases here, began gobbling up hamburgers, fried chicken and pizzas as soon as their incomes permitted them to do so. . . . So even though Okinawans rank as the second-shortest Japanese, averaging just below 5-foot-2, they now are the heaviest, averaging 135 pounds. "

story requires free registration

Edited by Gary Tanigawa (log)
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  • 4 months later...

Since the notorious vege shack shut down, I've been buying more often from a slightly more swanky vege shack by the station, which sells all sorts of interesting things but has inconvenient opening hours.

Yesterday I picked up a bunch of Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepioides, handama, in Japanese suisenjina, and another name which I have forgotten) related to Indonesian and Nepalese varieties). The thick, slightly pointed oval leaves have the faintest hint of chrysanthemum-like indentations, and true to form, it tastes a bit like shungiku. Most striking is the purple coloration of the undersides of the leaf - doesn't show up too well in this photo...

Photo of gynura crepioides

I fried some onion and chicken pieces plus a little bacon, added vinegar, and when that was evaporated and the chicken tender, added tofu, allowed that to release a little water, and then stir-fried the okinawa spinach (which had been lightly rubbed with a little salt to shed some of the water, then rinsed off and gently squeezed) in and added shoyu and mirin.

Despite the unusual taste, it retains more texture than shungiku, and we enjoyed it.

With that, we had a clear pork soup with goya (Momordica charantia, in Japanese nigauri or in west Japan tsuru-reishi, bitter gourd, bitter melon). And so ended our bag of two goya - the other one was pickled in asa-zuke pickling liquid for son2's packed lunch. For some reason, this fussy kid loves goya, and is rather fond of astringent persimmons BEFORE they've turned sweet!

goya pictures PLUS GOYAMAN!!!

I plan to explore Okinawan vegetables a bit further - anybody have any favorite Okinawan dishes using familiar vegetables, or any "new face" vegetables from Okinawa?

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I was just about to start a goya thread! look what I was just given

i11450.jpg

goya seem to be like the zucchini of Japan, I keep finding baskets of it on my doorstep! :biggrin:

I too am trying to find new ways to cook this.

I recently picked up a magazine called うちで楽しむ 沖縄の元気料理 (uchi de tanoshimu okinawa no genki ryouri -- healthy Okinawan dishes you can do at home)

http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4...8693201-0155514

lots of recipes plus mailorder sources, they also discussed many of the Okinawan vegetables but I have never seen them in the stores around me....

In the book they describe and give recipes for a couple greens, as well as handama they have shimanaa (karashina), fuuchibaa (yomogi) and njyana (written ンジャナ).

I'll keep my eyes open ...

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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torakris,

Will be keeping my eye on this thread.

One thing I discovered in Okinawa was that seasonally, ong choi would appear in Japanese markets, really enjoyed that.

Never found out how Okinawans prepared it but I went and made harm ha ong choi with pork! And my friends loved it!

Edited by pake (log)
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