Taste of Okinawa: Wing King by Kadena AB popular chicken restaurant

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Taste of Okinawa: Wing King by Kadena AB popular chicken restaurant

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

While many of your go-to restaurants for hot wings, a familiar game-day favorite, like Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters, may not yet have a home in Okinawa, there is no need to feel disappointed. Wing King is here to help with those spicy cravings.

For me, chicken wings remind me of the time I lived in the States. While there, I quickly embraced the bar food and beer culture while watching sports on the big televisions in some of the big chain restaurants.

Since then, I tend to order chicken wings when I have a chance to eat at American restaurant chains in Japan. At local restaurants, however, I did not often feel inclined to try Japanese or Okinawan adaptations. My recent visit to Wing King, a small joint that is a 5-minute drive from Kadena Air Base’s Gate 5, has changed that.

Housed in an old, flat building, Wing King’s interior makes it look as though it’s been around a while with walls covered in fliers for community events, autographs and other trappings, much different than what a big wing chain might have on their walls. Though there was a TV on in the dining area, what might usually be showing a ballgame back in a wing joint in the States, was instead playing music videos here. This departure from conventional décor made me feel at home and I was looking forward to the flavors I would soon be introduced to.

Ms. Walker, the woman running the shop, said it’s a popular spot for lunch and weekends.

Wing King offers 12 different wing flavors, including Hot, Lemon Pepper, Spicy Barbecue and Teriyaki Sauce. Orders can be placed for six pieces for 580 yen (approx. $5.35) with one flavor, or 10 pieces for 940 yen with up to two flavors, 14 pieces for 1,260 yen with up to two flavors, or 35 pieces for 2,800 with up to five flavors.

My growing anticipation for the local chicken was making me feel hungry. So, I decided to go big with 14 pieces, for which I had two options for flavors. As a spicy food lover, I felt it my obligation to try Hot, which is equivalent to regular Buffalo sauce and I also chose Honey Barbecue, as Ms. Walker said this is the most popular amongst the American clientele.

With one bite on the Hot chicken wing, a familiar spicy taste with a touch of tanginess kicked in. The punchy flavor reminded me of the chicken wings I had in the States or at on-base restaurants. But when it came to the after taste or “after burns,” the local chicken wing remained a little modest. For “pure” spicy food enthusiasts who just seek burn, more fuel may be needed. To me, it worked just fine because the restrained spiciness encouraged me to taste not only the sauce but also the flavor of the well-cooked chicken meat and delve into the next wing.

Honey Barbecue, on the other hand, came with a nice mixture of fruitiness and sweetness. The well-balanced flavor hit the sweet spot right off the bat. One bite was all it took me to understand its popularity.

I had the Hot and Honey Barbecue Wings one after the other and it felt like I could keep on eating forever. However, after I’d devoured five pieces of each of the two flavors, my stomach felt overwhelmed despite my mouth and taste buds desire for more.
While I was debating whether to indulge in more or ask for a to-go box, Sam, a customer from Camp Foster, stopped in to pick up his order. He said he first heard about Wing King more than 10 years ago when he was previously stationed on Okinawa.

“I have been looking forward to it ever since. And I finally found it. I love this place,” Sam added. “By far, these are the best wings I’ve ever had.”

I left the shop with my four remaining wings in a to-go box after wiping my saucy fingers with napkins. On my way back to the work I could still taste the juicy wings, reminding me of the delicious bar food on game days back in the States and that I should return to Wing King soon.


Wing King 

GPS Coordinates: N 26.327340, E 127.764220
Hours: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. 
Tel: 098-936-8986 
• Closed on Mondays
• Cash Only 
• Call-in and take-out available

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