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Anyone on the board from Okinawa or going there?

I lived in Okinawa for three years and loved the food. Matter of fact, my wife is Okinawan. We live in Brooklyn, NY now, but I'd love to discuss Okinawan food and some places if anyone has ideas, etc.

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  1. What's are your wife's father's recommended awamori labels?

    1. Hi. I'm not from Okinawa but I grew up in Japan and now live in San Francisco area. Last fall when I was in NYC, I went to an Okinawan restaurant called "Suibi". Have you been there? I loved their goya chanpuru and other dishes there!

      1. Silverjay, sorry to say my wife's father passed away before I met her, so can't offer much as to his fave labels. And unfortunately, I usually drank awamori at izakayas with fellow teachers and almost always ended up with Kume sen which I wouldn't really recommend. yoshika, I have been to Suibi in Manhattan. I thought the food was pretty good, I went with a group and had a chance to sample a lot of dishes. There was a sanshin concert there, so we had the whole Okinawa experience going. It's about as good as Okinawan food in Midtown could be I think. A friend of mine who went with me to Suibi is from Hawaii and said the food is better and cheaper there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JSHAFT78

          I've just finished snacking on some Okinawan black sugar candy we picked up at a regional foods type of fair in Tokyo last week. I had just eaten ika-meshi, a tasty, savory treat from Hokkaido, for my main dish. So my meal covered the entire archipelago I guess....Besides lots of black sugar snacks, I also picked up some shiquasa-koshou, and mix for Okinawan donuts... I had soki soba at a recommended place in Shinjuku the other day. It was good. I looked into traveling to Okinawa for the New Year's holiday, but plane fair from Tokyo was ridiculous. Okinawan food seems to be enjoying sort of a boom in Tokyo these days (totally different from the Amuro-Okinawa boom from a few years ago). AND, awamori is appearing more and more on shelves and on restaurant shochu lists.....BTW, one of my shochu books mentions the "Kaneyama 30 Year" as an awamori of distinction. It's 43% and pure 30 year aged shochu (most awamori are blended with different ages). Price tag: 65,528 YEN for a 720 ml bottle. Hey! That's like the same price as a Tokyo/Naha round trip ticket...

          1. re: JSHAFT78

            JSHAFT78, I'm glad to hear you thought Suibi food was pretty good. I've always been fascinated w/ Okinawa and hope to go there within next couple of years. My good friend in SF area is from Okinawa and she likes to tell me about culture and stories when she was growing up there. Any recommendation of dishes to try in Suibi next time I'm there? I try to be in Manhattan 4-5 times a year.

          2. I lived in Okinawa for about 2 and a half years.
            Didn't appreciate the food enough while I lived there. Fortunately, I live in Tokyo so I can still find restaurants serving decent goya champuru, sata andagi, and orion beer if I'm really lucky.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tokyosalaryman

              I think the food in Okinawa really grows on you. I think some people come expecting the picture perfect sushi omakase or the ornate teishokus that so many people think of as Japanese and get put off. I was able to meet a number of artisan type Okinawans through my wife who made andagi from stratch or raised their own pigs for use in soba at their restaurants, etc, so I think I was lucky. yoshika, if you end up at Suibi again, I would get a main dish, but not the set. Instead, order some appetizers. You should definitely get rafute. I really liked Suibi's, although my wife's grandmother's rafute is the best ever. If they have a smaller plate of fu chanpuru, I think that's a good choice too. Or you could get fu chanpuru as a main dish I guess. But I would always get soba as my main dish, no way you can pass on Okinawa soba in my opinion. Get tebichi. The appetizer menu at Suibi is actually pretty big, I would pick some things you think sound interesting. Anything that isn't Okinawan is kind of a waste in my opinion since NYC has soooo many Japanese restaurants, but only one with Okinawan food.

            2. I miss soki soba! I used to visit Okinawa a few times a year (20+ years ago)--used to be my most favorite destination in Japan and wanted to move there (from Osaka).

              1. I had some Okinawan food when I was in Tokyo last August. It was a dish called ume budo don consisting of rice topped with raw blue fish and "bunches" of "sea grape" seaweed. It was superb and it seems quite obscure as when I mentioned to Japanese friends in London, not many of them had heard of ume budo but then again not many of them had been to Okinawa either. Would certainly be interested to discover any good Okinawan food in London or New York.

                People I know recently opened a dedicated sake shop in New York's East Village (it's called Sakaya and it's on E9th St between 2nd and 3rd Avs). I believe that in due course they plan to sell a range of awamoris, I will find out more and post again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: oonth

                  I love ume budo. Not suprising that no one knew about it. Soba and chanpuru are the headline dishes I guess. Sakaya sounds great. I know Decibel is a sake bar in the East Village also. Haven't been there for quite some time, but heard it's still open. I may have to go check and see if they have awamori as well. But would love to hear your report on Sakaya. It's unfortunate that Suibi is the only NYC place that seems to have Okinawan food. oonth, several of my former teaching friends who are living in London have looked all over and not found any Okinawan restaurants. It seems the only place where you can find Okinawan food easily is Hawaii.

                2. A bunch of us have a blog where we share information about living in Okinawa to include all the yummy restaurants. Here's the link to the restaurants: http://www.okinawahai.com/my_weblog/t....



                  1. You might enjoy references to traditional Okinawan food in Chapter 15, "Dinner at Kamarra," in the novel, B.C. STREET (see www.okinawa-bcstreet.com).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: eacooper

                      Mereditz, I'm spacing on the name(was all in Chinese), but there's a great Chinese place near the Ryubo in Tomishiro. If you're going through that tunnel from Oroku to Tomishiro, you make a right at the Family Mart right across from the Ryubo. I lived very close to there, and the place opened up not too much before I left Okinawa, but it's fantastic. The chef was actually on NHK cooking shows fairly frequently and even had some photos of high ranking sumo wrestlers who had frequented his place in Tokyo. Simple looking joint, bright red sign and a few parking spaces around the perimeter. Sounds like it would be right up your alley

                    2. I'm 1/2 Okinawan and visit my relatives there every other year or so.

                      One of my favorite places for a straightforward Oki meal is on the restaurant floor of Palette Kumoji in Naha. I don't know the name (can't read kanji!), but you'll know it by the wagon wheel decor. It's really more of a diner, but the food there is good.

                      One of my cousins is a good cook, and makes many local dishes. Last visit (late 2006), she made mindaru, which is sliced pork served in a black sesame sauce, and -- I think this is the right name -- goya suru suru, which is grated goya and apple, seasoned with lemon and honey. Very refreshing! Another cousin mentioned that there's a very good Okinawa soba restaurant in their town (Gushikawa), so I hope to try that next visit. If rafute is involved, I'll be there!

                      I'm now in Tokyo for a short visit, and yesterday I had one of the lunch sets at a Tokyo branch of Naha restaurant Nabi to Kamodo, consisting of goya champuru, jushee (seasoned rice), a small side bowl of Okinawa soba, an assortment of pickles, and, for dessert, purple sweet potato fritters covered in sesame, served with whipped cream and caramel. And ucchin cha (turmeric tea). So good. I'm hoping to try out a few more Okinawa restaurants, if time allows. If you can't be in Okinawa, you can still do pretty good in Tokyo. Including getting scoops of my favorite Foremost Blue Seal ice creams, goya and kurosato, at the Okinawa Washita shop in Ginza.

                      You can also do pretty good at the annual Okinawa Festival held every year at Kapiolani Park in Honolulu. Besides a full slate of entertainment (last year's special guest for the festival's 25th anniversary was Rinken Band), there's plentiful prepared food (my favorite of which is andadogs -- hot dogs dipped in andagi batter and fried like corn dogs), and they have a large tent, called, of course, the "Heiwadori" where they bring in a ton of Okinawan pantry goods for sale. I went for the 1st time in 2004, and have been every year since. It's a lot of fun and, for west coasters, not so long a trip (guess you can't say the same for the east coast, though).