Okinawan Vibes- Okinawan food from the Japan Society


#1

Japan Society has a Okinawan culture program that runs from Nov 3-8. On the first day, exotic foods from Okinawa will be available.

From their web site:
Bingata roll: A colorful salmon roll with cucumber and turmeric-tinted rice, representing the vibrant patterns of bingata textiles

Rafute: Braised pork belly simmered in soy sauce, awamori liquor, and Okinawan brown sugar

Jimami tofu: A sweet and savory tofu dish seasoned with peanut butter and sweet potato starch

Goya chanpuru: Okinawa’s signature stir-fry, made with egg, tofu, and the exotic green goya, or “bitter melon”

Mozuku: A healthy seaweed treat that has a mild flavor and is loaded with nutrients

Okinawan beer: A light, crisp beer brewed in Okinawa, which is perfect for the islands’ tropical climate

Sanpin tea: A floral green tea similar to jasmine, Sanpin is the most popular variety of tea in Okinawa

Shikwasa juice: Made from the shikwasa citrus fruit, this juice has a pleasant balance of sweet and tart notes

Awamori Cocktail: Cocktail made from Okinawa’s distinctive awamori liquor, which has a smooth, deep flavor

http://www.japansociety.org/event/explore-okinawa-art-culture-and-cuisine-from-the-ryukyu-islands


Goya Champuru in the Boston area?
#2

Fascinating! I hope tickets don’t sell out too fast. Seems too inexpensive to believe, unless I missed something. $18 for non-members, right?


#3

It is indeed. When I read it it seemed low too, Since I haven’t been its hard to tell the quantity and quality of the food. Nonetheless, for $18 I think it is a very reasonable price to sample this regional food that is not widely found.

In fact, the only time I had Okinawan food was in Salt Lake City when the chef, who came from Okinawa, put a few regional specialty on the menu of an otherwise generic sushi restaurant. I guess there isn’t a big market for Okinawan food.


#4

By the way, my girlfriend and I have tickets and plan on going. Anyone else going?


#5

Thanks for posting about this. My girlfriend and I had a lovely time. I’ll post in more detail about the food and drink later, but I’ll say in general that they started with an hour and a half of talk, a lot of which was promotional but quite interesting stuff about the culture, history and food of Okinawa. The food was delicious and they also served a really good shochu/soju from Okinawa call Ryukyu Ohcho, which they told me is carried at Sakiya, which is in my neighborhood and co-owned by my friend Hiroko. I plan to stop by and find out how much she’s charging for a bottle. They also were just so nice, so it really was something like a mini-trip to Japan, which I guess is one of the main points of the Japan Society.


#6

I am glad you enjoyed it. I had a prior commitment so I couldn’t check it out. Now that you mentioned the slight infomercial aspect it makes sense that the price is kept reasonably cheap. They wanted you to go try out food and listen to the promotion and potentially travel to Japan. Of course they made it tasteful so it sounds like it’s enjoyable. Probably some subsidy from the govt to cover cost.

Please do tell us more when you have a chance.


#7

Sure. I’ll intercut the Japan Society’s description of each food and drink item below with my remarks:

Bingata roll: A colorful salmon roll with cucumber and turmeric-tinted rice, representing the vibrant patterns of bingata textiles

Bingata is one of Okinawa’s traditional styles of textiles, and some quite beautiful pieces were on display and also shown in slide shows by two of the presenters: Takao Kadekaru, Senior Executive Director of the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hiroshi Jashiki, a fashion designer who was trained as a traditional weaver in Okinawa before he left to study in the US and then live in New York. It was explained how the motifs in bingata are inspired by the light, scenery, flora and fauna of Okinawa, with examples, such as the wings of a local butterfly compared to an example of bingata.

The roll was fresh and good, although possibly less interesting than the other items.

Rafute: Braised pork belly simmered in soy sauce, awamori liquor, and Okinawan brown sugar

This dish, we were told, needs to be simmered for 8 hours or more. The nutritionist who gave a presentation on the traditional Okinawan diet and the principles and science behind it, Hiroko Shou, Professor Emeritus of the University of the Ryukyus, who went to Michigan State in the 50s and later came back as Visiting Professor there, said that the traditional Okinawan diet contributed to the longevity of Okinawans. What surprised me is that, for a group of 600 islands, that diet doesn’t emphasize fish but instead emphasizes pork. And the way they make pork healthy is by boiling it for hours and skimming off the fat. There was fat in this dish, but it was a kind of stew pork, with layers of somewhat chewy meat and fat. It was pleasant.

Jimami tofu: A sweet and savory tofu dish seasoned with peanut butter and sweet potato starch

This was fantastic - a slightly sticky texture, redolent of peanuts that had a somewhat roasted taste. My girlfriend and I probably liked this best of all the food items. We had a conversation with one of the staff members in which she mentioned that this is a uniquely Okinawan way to make tofu - in other parts of Japan, you can get tofu made with sesame, but never with peanuts.

Goya chanpuru: Okinawa’s signature stir-fry, made with egg, tofu, and the exotic green goya, or “bitter melon”

Chanpuru is an interesting word to me - is it a cognate of the Malay “campur” (old spelling: champur), or is it a borrow word from Malay, as one not necessarily authoritative site claimed? Anyway, both words mean “mixed”. Goya is the same as karela, as it’s called in some Indian languages - the bitter green gourd with a crinkly skin. The pieces of goya were small and didn’t provide much taste, so they may have gone easy on us; I wouldn’t have minded more goya taste, but some other people might have. It was more or less a scrambled egg and tofu dish, topped by katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), and it was nice.

Mozuku: A healthy seaweed treat that has a mild flavor and is loaded with nutrients

My girlfriend remarked that it took her a moment to get past the sliminess of this seaweed. I didn’t find it particularly slimy, only a little. There were a few strands of vinegar-and-sugar infused ginger in it, and it was in a vinegar-based sauce that was very tasty. I got used to it quickly, really liked it (probably more than anything else except the peanut tofu), and I would gladly eat this once a week. The nutritionist said that Okinawans’ consumption of seaweed (she suggested we call it “sea vegetables”, so as to value them more) is a major factor in their good health and longevity. By the way, she is 84, looked great and is clearly very vital.

Okinawan beer: A light, crisp beer brewed in Okinawa, which is perfect for the islands’ tropical climate

This tasted like a perfectly good Pilsner to me. I’m not a huge beer connoisseur, but it was perfectly acceptable, though nothing amazing. My girlfriend tasted a hint of citrus in its bouquet, but I didn’t really notice that.

Sanpin tea: A floral green tea similar to jasmine, Sanpin is the most popular variety of tea in Okinawa

A perfectly good, subtle jasmine to my palate, but nothing exceptional. I think the exceptional varieties would be quite expensive.

Shikwasa juice: Made from the shikwasa citrus fruit, this juice has a pleasant balance of sweet and tart notes

Mostly quite tart and limey.

Awamori Cocktail: Cocktail made from Okinawa’s distinctive awamori liquor, which has a smooth, deep flavor

The cocktail was good, but the liquor itself, as I mentioned before, was great!

The history of the Okinawan Kingdom and its influence by China and Southeast Asian lands and then Japan is quite interesting. The Okinawans referred to the Japanese Home Islands as “the Mainland”. I wonder whether they have feelings toward Japan that are a little like Hawaiians’ feelings toward the US Mainland, but I’d have to learn a lot more about the islands and their people to come close to really knowing this.

Some members of the Japan Society told me that there’s only one food presentation per year, but the “Explore Okinawa” series will continue with presentations on karate, the islands’ native martial arts form, and bingata.


#8

thanks for the wrirteup, really interesting. (but hey, no taco rice?) the awamori liquor sounds really cool. fwiw, it looks like Astor Wine & Spirits carries a couple of types: http://is.gd/sY3PDb


#9

No taco rice. :smile:


(Jonathañ) #10

Though I haven’t been to Okinawa, visiting the Okinawan prefectural stores in Tokyo and Osaka was always fun. For me, saata andagi and shikuwasa are irresistible. Can’t say the same about gooya (bitter gourd)…but I’m not opposed to it either.

Jonathan


#11

Thanks for the write up- that seems like a very interesting combination of island dishes. Btw, did they mention if there are any places around here that serve Okinawan specialties? Who catered the event?


(Jonathañ) #12

Did the place in Harlem already close?

Suppose we could ask these folks too: http://www.oaany.org/.


#13

The fashion designer mentioned that there used to be an Okinawan restaurant in Midtown (I forget the name), but since it closed, there’s no restaurant in New York where you can get Okinawan food, but you can find the products and cook it yourself. I assume they brought cooks from Okinawa for the event.