What to Eat and Drink
A native variety of shochu spirit, enjoyed island-wide – although it’s less popular among young people. Join the locals and try it tavern-style at the izakaya Jizake Yokocho on Kokusai Street. An English menu makes it easy to navigate the respected selection of awamori and delicious food, and there’s live folk music most nights.
Although tofu in Japan differs from area to area, there are two broad varieties: smooth kinugoshi dofu and firmer momen dofu. Okinawa’s famous shima dofu, which literally translates as “island tofu”, is similar to momen dofu, though the recipe and flavour differ. Try it at Kaiyou Shokudou.
Popular around the world, pork belly gets an unusual treatment in Okinawa. White miso and Okinawan brown sugar feature strongly in local dishes, providing a unique flavour that overlays quintessential Japanese ingredients. Try it at Urizun.
Bitter melon in Goya Champuru
Highly nutritious goya (bitter melon) is eaten year-round in an iconic Okinawan dish called champuru. It is history on a plate, combining the healthy native vegetable with Spam, the US canned meat introduced during the Second World War. A favourite of taxi drivers and construction workers, Mikado serves the dirtiest, most authentic version of the dish.
There are numerous Southeast Asian versions of this small green-skinned citrus, including calamansi and Taiwanese tangerine. The shikuwasa is revered for its alleged cancer-fighting properties. Spend an hour at Shikuwasa Park in the Kunigami Park area, exploring the small scale shikuwasa processing facility that produces a variety of products from the citrus fruit, such a deliciously tart, savoury dressing ideal to take home as a souvenir or gift.