Okinawa Cuisine, Goya Shampuru dish

Okinawa Cuisine

The Tropical Archipelago's Food Specialties

⏱ 3 minutes

When traveling in Okinawa it is impossible not to try on the main local foods. Everybody has heard about the benefits of the delicious and varied Japanese food, and one can say the same for the former Ryukyu kingdom’s gastronomy.

Goya, the iconic Ryukyu vegetable

In Okinawa, goya, a kind of bitter melon, is *the* regional specialty, only grown in the tropical archipelago. It looks like a large green squash, but with the bumpy skin of a gherkin. It is also called bitter apple or bitter gourd or balsam-pear. The most famous recipe made with this typical vegetable is the "goya champuru", a stir-fried dish including ingredients such as firm tofu dices, Spam, omelet stripes, soy bean sprouts and thin slices of goya.

The other "Okinawan green vegetables and fruits" include the sweet and sour shikuwasa (Citrus depressa) and the grape looking algae umi budo.

Okinawa Cuisine, Dish with umi budo algae

Okinawa soba noodles

Apart from the different goya-based dishes, we recommend trying the Okinawa Soba, which are noodles served in a hot broth with toppings in a bowl. The topping meat is often boiled pork, garnished with ginger, seaweed and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). Sometimes a slice of kamaboko narutomaki 🍥 fish cake can be added.

Note that there are 2 other kinds of Okinawa soba: the Soki soba and the Tebichi soba, whose main differences lie in the chunks of meat pork served with the dish. In addition to pork, Japanese beef is also raised in Okinawa so it is easy to find local wagyu tender beef.

Noodles are replaced by rice in the Okinawa Taco Rice (タコライス takoraisu) that is a modern culinary creation, with minced beef, salsa sauce, cheese, salad, tomatoes and sometimes omelet.

Okinawa Cuisine, Typical set menu with taco rice and Okinawa soba noodles

Awamori, the local liquor

Regarding alcohol, awamori is a distilled spirit specific to Okinawa, with a taste a lot stronger than the famous nihonshu (Japanese sake 🍶) that can be found throughout the country. It is often described as Ryukyu Archipelago’s shochu (Japanese distilled liquor). It is indeed quite strong as it contains 40% alcohol per vol, and it is easier enjoyed diluted with water or just "on the rocks!"

There is also a local beer 🍺 in Okinawa: Orion. Like its popular counterparts Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin, the Orion beer is a pale lager with a light taste, and makes a good pairing with sushi 🍣 for example.

Excessive drinking put your health at risk. Alcoholic beverages should be consumed in moderation.

Naturally, restaurants in Okinawa are also blessed with the Japanese service, that is to say always efficient and without too much waiting. Additionally, a lot of places serve burgers, inspired by the American troops stationed on the archipelago’s territory since the end of World War II.

Lastly, it is often said that Okinawa is a centenarians' archipelago and it seems that its islands offer the longest life expectancy in Japan. As a matter of fact, the quality of the food served there is always top-notch, as it is the case most of the time in Japan.

Updated on February 28, 2023 - Cuisine d’Okinawa