When reminiscing about Okinawa, what comes to mind? Instantly, the crystal-clear beaches, the perfect outdoor weather, sitting at a local bar enjoying an Orion Beer, the simple pleasure of meeting the smiling locals and sampling the delicious food which is uniquely different to other parts of Japan.
Naha is the main gateway city of the Okinawan islands. It is a vibrant city, a mix of ancient traditions with a modern touch yet with a laid-back atmosphere of a sub-tropical island paradise.
This is no busy Tokyo or bustling Osaka; Okinawa is vastly different to the rest of the country – mainly due to its island geography and unique history and culture under the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Naha’s main street, Kokusai-Dori is busy, filled with a wide variety of stores, gift shops, island fashion boutiques and traditional Ryukyu glass or Yachimun Pottery to just name a few, while branching off Kokusai Dori opens a wealth of shopping arcades with a variety of independent market stalls.
As we wander through the streets around Kokusai-Dori, we find ourselves in the delightful neighbourhood of Tsuboya, Naha’s famous ceramics neighbourhood and home of Yachimun pottery. The traditional style, colours and designs reflect Okinawa’s natural landscapes. For the ultimate personalised souvenir, you can attend a hands-on pottery workshop and work on your very own masterpiece – why not try your hand at making your own Shisa, a traditional guardian lion dog statue that you will see scattered all over Okinawa on your travels.
One of the ways to best appreciate the rich culture of Okinawa is to not only eat its delicious food, but to learn to cook these dishes for yourself. In Naha, we take the Yonner Food Cooking Class with owner and teacher, Kayo Kazumi. We meet Kayo at the Makishi Public Market, Naha’s main food market and for the next hour we follow her through the various stalls, buying the ingredients we will use to prepare our lunch. Before we leave the markets, we stop to try some Sata Andagi, an Okinawan Donut made with Okinawan brown sugar – a delicious treat before we start cooking!
In Kayo’s home we start all the prep for cooking under her helpful guidance. Recipes are provided in English. One of the dishes we make is Goya Champuru. A simple tip is to salt cure the goya (bitter melon) before cooking to reduce its bitterness and intensify the flavour. We also learn how to make Rafute Pork Belly – super tasty!
Kayo also shared the recipe for one of the simplest Okinawan side dishes to make. While being easy to make, it is super tasty! Ninjin Shiri Shiri is an Okinawan Style sauteed carrot. Ninjin is carrot in Japanese and “Shiri-Shiri” comes from the sound of slicing the carrot with the grater in Okinawan Dialect (simple right?!). This is a very traditional Okinawan home cooked dish, once you try it, you will love it. The dish is so popular in Okinawa, that each household even has their own designated grater for it.
• 300 Grams of Grated Carrot
• 1 Large Can of Tuna
• 2x Eggs (Beaten)
• 2 tbsp Oil
• 1 tsp Salt
1. Peel the skin off the carrot and grate. Place the carrot in a bowl and sprinkle salt over. Let it sit until the carrot becomes soft. (Salt is used to draw out the moisture from the Carrot)
2. Squeeze the grated carrot to remove the moisture.
3. In a hot frying pan, put oil and sauté the carrot.
4. Add the can of Tuna (preferably in Springwater or oil) and sauté a little longer
5. Add some water and cover the frying pan to steam cook.
6. Remove the cover and add the beaten eggs in the pan and mix until evenly coated and cooked.
Serve with a dash of Soy Sauce if you wish, otherwise ENJOY!
For more information on the Yonner Food Cooking Class, visit https://en.yonnerfood.jp/.
For more information on Okinawa, visit www.visitokinawa.jp.
Subscription successful! Thank you for subscribing.