Friday, 29 April 2016

My must try foods in Okinawa (Japan)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I loooove food! My family loves a good eat and so do my friends, so I find that this is often a "hobby" I am doing!

If you know that I love food, then you will also know that I love travelling, and what better way of combining these two favourite activities then trying new foods when on holiday!

If you have read my blog post on Okinawa then you'll know that I have recently spent a few weeks in the little Japanese island with my mum's side of the family. I have been learning Japanese and this was my chance to throw myself in the deep end and put my learning into practice.

Whilst here I have tried so many new foods, as well as some childhood favourites that my mum used to make, I wanted to share with you my "must eat foods when in Okinawa". The reason I have stated 'Okinawa' rather than Japan, is that here we have our own little sub-culture and foods. Some of the foods listed also originate from Japan but others are local delicacies!!!


Amazing food

Tako yaki
Tako = octopus and yaki = grilled, but it is much more than just grilled octopus. Tako yaki is a delicious dish of batter balls with spring onion and octopus inside, that is grilled off in a special iron skillet. It is then brushed with the tastiest brown sticky sauce and some kind of fish flakes (don't let that put you off). This has to be one of my all time favourite Japanese dishes! We had ours at the food court at the Jusco shopping centre, but they have this dish everywhere!


I do not know one person that doesn't like yaki niku, which translates into "grilled meat". In the middle of the table (yes we were sitting on the floor) there is a hot grill, in which you cook your own meet and veggies. Ordering couldn't be simpler either, as at the restaurant we went too (a chain called Goen), they had a tablet on each table, with an English option, and with a touch of the finger you ordered your dishes. 2 minutes they arrive at your table and you are good to go!!! The downside to this is of course over excitement which does lead to over ordering, which does of course lead to over eating!

This place is popular with the locals and the American marines who have a huge base here on the island. We chose a la carte but they also have a all-you-can-eat buffet style option!

My mum used to do this dish when I was living at home on a Sunday and when I was a little girl, I would hide all my meat under my rice as I couldn't eat as quick as my dad and if I didn't, all the tasty meat would have gone in seconds.

Not an Okinawan food, this is my new favourite sweet! Sticky rice covered in that red kidney bean paste again. Sticky, sweet and morish.

Okinawan donuts - Sa-ta andagi
Sata is the Okinawan word for sugar (it is sato in Japanese) but these donuts are not like the sugary ring donuts that you find at Krispy Kreme. They are like a massive round ball of dough/batter, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They have them at quite a few places but I am going to be biased here and demand that you only eat them at my aunt's mother-in-laws place as they are the best!!! They have a tiny little stall in the main market off Kouksai Street in Naha (the capital of Okinawa). Back in the day when my mum lived in Okinawa, theirs was the only place that would sell these. When I came here as a little girl, I would be given a tasty donut every time I walked past their stall!

Soumin champuru 

Soumin champuru is a very popular Okinawan noodle dish of soumen noodles (fine noodles) with a bit of canned tuna and spring onions. Oh so simple but oh so tasty!!! Soumin champuru originated from Okinawa but is now eaten on the mainland.

Okinawan zenzai
Okinawan zenzai is a tasty dessert of red kidney beans cooked with sugar, topped with crushed ice. You can also top the ice with a tasty sweet milk or a fruit sauce for added tastiness, or even with ice cream. This was my mum's favourite dessert growing up on the island, The use of red kidney beans as a dessert base is popular in Japan and called "anko". It is filling, sweet and has great texture. They use it in quite a lot of desserts and sweets such as mochi, ohagi and doriyaki.

Mittarashi dango
This is one of my favourite Japanese sweets as it is made from "mochi", a chewy and sticky rice flour ball. Mochi comes in different shapes, styles and pairings. Dango means "ball" in Japanese, so these are skewered balls of mochi. Mittarashi dango comes topped with "tare", a sweet sticky sauce.

I am told by my mum that soba (noodles) is an important dish in Okinawa and one that is a staple. It is pretty much served and available everywhere. Delicious noodles in a broth, topped with various items such as fish cakes, vegetables and slices of pork. I had soba a few times, my favourite being with tenpura. Okinawan soba is different from main-land soba noodles, slightly thicker and people love them!

mum (right) enjoying Okinawan soba

Mugicha (barley tea) and classic green tea
I am a big fan of Japanese green tea and I am so pleased to see that its popularity in England is growing, especially matcha with is crammed full of antioxidants. Although I drink green tea in England, the tea bag Twinings stuff is nothing like the proper stuff here! It is cleaner, crisper, and fresher! Not like the twinings or Tetleys stuff back home (sorry). I have been drinking it by the gallon load! And the happy thing is, that there is next to zero calories in it and it is so good for you!!!

Since being here, I have also discovered a new tea I love - barley tea aka mugicha! They often have it  cold in jugs on the table at restaurants for you to help yourself, much like we would have a jug of tap water. It isn't a particularly sweet drink

Spam-tamago onigiri 
Onigiri are those tasty rice balls within a sheet of nori. I love these and they make a great snack! An Okinawan favourite is a spam-tamago onigiri (tamago is egg). Although an American product, the Okinawans eat a fair bit of spam  thanks to their being a huge American military base on the island. This is proper fast food comfort food and I love it!

Blue Seal

Again thanks to the American influence, you'll see Blue Seal ice cream parlours everywhere. The ice cream is tasty and they also do flavour unique to the island, like my favourite, ice cream with anko (that red kidney bean sweet mix!) I also love the bene-imo flavour ice cream, which is a purple sweet potato, native to the island. They love bene-imo (imo means potato) and it often features in desserts and as a flavour!

Umi budo 
Umi budo translates into sea grapes, a tasty sea vegetable. It can be a bit salty so be careful. This is another vegetbale native to teh isalnd and you'll see it in plenty of palces. Tasty amazing with rice and sashimi. 


An izakaya is not a chain of restaurants but a word given to restaurants that are small, traditional style and serve alcohol. I know that pop up restaurants are all the rage in London now but these are even smaller - I have seen some izakayas that have enough room to seat 6 people! They are everywhere, you have your pick.

Teppanyaki is the famous Japanese style restaurant where chefs cook at the table on a hot plate/grill in front of you, performing a little show with their impressive skills. Me and the family went to "Sam's" in Naha on  Kouksai Dori (street). There are about 4 Sam's on this main road alone each with a different theme - we chose Sam's sailor inn as it was the only one with a lunch time option (go later on in the lunch time sitting as it's less crowded). The inside looks like a ship and the food is pretty tasty! You also get to keep the cocktail cup to take home :-) Order the shark cocktail as this ones pretty cool!

If you're in the South of the island, then head to this cute cafe if the sun is shining. Over looking the sea and serving a small selection of food and drinks, a pit stop here will refresh you. Unfortunately we went on a cloudy day so the view wasn't that great.

Other foods  I like...

handama - a purple and green spinach like leaf veg - delicious when stiry-fried and with a bit of tuna

yaki imo - baked sweet (purple) potato - here they have freshly baked potato in the shops, ready for you to snack on whilst hot. Why they don't have these here I do not know! Only a 100 yen too!

bimbimba - an iron hot pot filled with rice and veggies. Upon being served, you crack in an egg in it which slowly cooks

sanpincha - jasmine tea

mozuku - a tasty seaweed, great with a little sweet vinegar in a salad style

tebuchi - pig's trotters and not for me but people love them and they are a local Okinawan delicacy - try it if you dare!

freshly baked hot sweet potatoes 

If you have been to Okianwa, I would love to hear from you! 
 X x X

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