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June 16, 2012

Food from Okinawa

I love food from Okinawa, not only because it is supposed to be very healthy (Okinawa is called the "Land of Longevity"), but in the first place because it tastes so good! Like all culture on these tropical islands, the old Ryukyu Kingdom, Okinawan cuisine contains elements of both China and Japan.

My favorite Okinawan vegetable is the goya, a very bitter gourd that looks like a grotesque, extra knobbly cucumber. Goya can be eaten in salads, made into tempura, but the most common way is to use it in a stir-fried dish called goya-champuru. Besides goya, leeks and eggs are used, and lots of tofu. What is bitter, is good for you, so goya is thought to be the secret behind the Okinawans’ famous longevity.


Another favorite is rafuti, tender chunks of pork stewed in a sweet brown sauce made from miso, soy, sugar and awamori.

Awamori is the national drink of Okinawa, a powerful distilled drink with alcohol percentages between 25 and 30. It is very fresh and tasty, too, as it contains a lot of citric acid. It is often drunk mixed with hot or cold water.

The food that really suits awamori is my third Okinawan favorite: tofuyo. This is fermented tofu, super dense and concentrated. It tastes like a strong moldy cheese and is eaten in tiny bites. It marvelously complements the awamori! Okinawan food and awamori have become very popular in Japan and in all the big cities you can find Okinawan eateries and izakaya (bar-restaurants).