Okinawa style: Get your greens on
Unlike its mainland counterpart to the north, Okinawan cuisine is, well, uniquely Okinawan. Its Ryukyuan roots ensured it would forever include Chinese and other Southeast Asian influences as well as Japanese. This is especially true of the use of vegetables – many of which are available most of the year on this tropical paradise. Ample strong southern sunlight means that even the veggies you are familiar with will likely be darker in color and richer in flavor than you expect on Okinawa. Here are a few tried-and-true local favorites to check out.
With a unique bitter taste and high level of heat-resistant vitamin C, goya is a popular vegetable that is perfect for stir-fry. Goya is one of many prominent local vegetables said to contribute to maintaining sound health and promoting longevity.
Remove seeds and cotton-like seed coats and slice to an appropriate size.
*The seeds and seed coats can be eaten as tempura.
The texture of shima rakkyo is similar to a shallot, with rich aroma and a piquant flavor. It makes a perfect accompaniment to awamori and is also widely eaten as an appetizer for alcoholic beverages. It also tastes great as tempura.
Using shima rakkyo
Cut off roots and green leaves. Peel off thin skin from the bulbs. Rub with salt and let sit overnight.
Okinawan okra is a popular vegetable possessing a unique stickiness, particularly popular among health-conscious people.
Cut off the sepal of okra before cooking. Wash and rub okra skin with salt to remove prickles. Parboil. Serve with dried bonito flakes and soy sauce to taste.
Handama is a vegetable with bicolor leaves of dark green on one side and purple on the other that becomes sticky when heated. Great as aemono (cold dish mixed with dressing) and soup. The purple of handama colors the dish slightly, and the vegetable can be used in various ways. Fresh handama is darker in color.
Colorful pasta with handama
Ingredients: (Serves 2)
- Pasta (180g)
- 1/3 bundle handama
- 1/2 carrot
- Bacon or canned pork to taste
- Olive oil to taste, Salt and pepper to taste
- Put shredded fresh handama and carrot over cooked pasta.
- Sprinkle crispy bacon or canned pork over the handama.
- Garnish with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Okinawan carrot is a native vegetable that is long and light yellow in color. Its texture is slightly softer than burdock. A soup made with Okinawan carrot is widely eaten as a nourishing meal.
Pork liver and Okinawan carrot soup (chimushinji)
Ingredients: (Serves 5)
- 250g Okinawan carrots
- 200-300g pork
- 600g pork liver
- 8 cups water
- Cut pork liver into bite-size pieces. Rub with salt and bleed well.
- Cut pork into bite-size pieces.
- Peel carrots and slice thin diagonally.
- Put all ingredients in a large pot. Add water and cook on high heat.
- Skim and turn down heat. Add Okinawan carrots and simmer for 30 minutes.
Courtesy of the Okinawa Prefectural Government