There are so many cultural wonders and experiences in Japan. Here are 5 must try foods of Okinawa. Don’t miss trying, if you feel brave enough, the special drink with a viper!
1. Okinawa Soba
Unlike the buckwheat-based Japanese soba from the mainland, Okinawa soba is a chewier, wheat-based noodle more similar to udon. It is typically served with a ramen-like broth; accompanied by fish cakes, marinated pork belly, and seaweed; and garnished with spicy pickled ginger, green onions, and chilli oil. This mouth-watering dish is found all over the island from hole-in-the-wall type joints to more upscale establishments. If you fancy yourself a budding chef, take a cooking class so you may learn to recreate the flavours in your own kitchen and make the noodles from scratch.
2. Umibudou (Sea Grapes)
Often served with a soy sauce/vinegar dipping sauce, sea grapes are a little more adventurous fare. Green caviar, as it’s sometimes referred, is an algae found in the Western Pacific Ocean that looks similar to an overabundant bundle of tiny, green grapes. Salty in taste, this delicacy doesn’t fail to amuse with the most satisfying bursting sensation in your mouth as you chew. Step aside peanuts! When paired with a cool Orion Beer, sea grapes serve as an upscale bar snack that’s equally refreshing and unusual. Don’t miss or Japan’s top 5 unique cultural experiences.
3. Blue Seal Ice Cream
With the island’s American history, it’s no surprise that the confection claims to be “Born in America, Raised in Okinawa”. The retro American feel of the Makiminato main branch of Blue Seal Ice Cream takes you back to the days of yesteryear and provides a sweet backdrop for a double scoop photo op. For 1,500 yen, you can visit the attached Blue Seal Ice Park for a tour and create your very own ice cream bar (make sure you book in advance).
Similar to a mildly sweet North American shortbread, these cookies are a simple traditional Okinawa treat. A perfect companion to a cup of coffee, these salt cookies have been made in Okinawa for hundreds of years dating back to the Ryukyu Dynasty. They are a perfect souvenir and often provided as a favour of sorts at hotels or on airlines.
5. Beni Imo
You’d be hard pressed to avoid the temptations of beni imo treats while abroad in Okinawa. Sweets made with this purple sweet potato, not to be confused with similar root vegetables like ube (purple yam) or taro, are seemingly everywhere on the island. It’s vibrant colour adds a festive component to the wares and is sure to catch the eye of the youngest travellers. A visit to Akashi Goten Sweets Palace and it’s attached factory will provide a spectacle of precision as they pump out souvenir packed tarts. Our hearts belong to beni imo ice cream but it’s truly hard to choose a favourite while sampling all the varieties.
Bonus: Awamori – Alcohol
Awamori is a traditionally distilled rice liquor unique to Okinawa made with koji black mold in a process that dates back 600 years. It is served straight up, over ice, or mixed with water. If you’re feeling really brave, try some Habushu. Habushu is awamori containing a pit viper, honey and spices. Beyond it’s dramatic appearance, Habushu is believed to have medicinal and libido-enhancing properties but I’ll leave that up to your judgement.
Learn more about our travels to Japan – Japan’s top 5 unique cultural experiences
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