Another bukubuku-cha post! Sorry, I cannot help myself, I love tea culture.
So one afternoon I set out on a mission, and asked if my husband would join me. We headed for the Tsuboya yachimun (pottery) district of Naha. Specifically to the popular Ryukyu-style restaurant, Nuchigafu ぬちがふう(命果報).
This place gained much popularity after the Jimami Tofu movie came out; the owner collaborated with the movie showing and prepared a special lunch set that included all the foods that were found in the movie. Many of my friends raved about it (I forgo due to the copious amounts of pork in most Okinawan cuisine). However, recently, they started offering an afternoon tea set with bukubuku cha, so… of course I most check it out.
The restaurant is located off a quiet back street, but it is easy to find. The architecture is beautiful, and one of the resident cats greeted us. The atmosphere inside is quite nice and relaxing. We ordered one “simple tea set” which included 8 treats (savory and sweet), 3 traditional cookies, and bukubuku tea, and one bukubuku tea set (which comes with 3 traditional cookies). The bukubuku cha was prepared at the table so you could watch the magic happen. Everything on the plate was delicious of course. Overall I highly recommend this place for an afternoon stopover while you are visited the pottery district!
The grocery aisles are lined with various important foods on display, many of which may not be too familiar to foreigners.
In this modern day you will see stores bustling with pre-orders, as not many people have so much time to prepare all these foods! Again, it usually falls on the wife of the oldest son to prepare these things, so as you can imagine ordering a platter with all the required items from a restaurant or grocery store is much easier than making everything yourself.
There are a some traditional foods necessary for Okinawan osechi-ryouri, and it is typically the same items you see in usanmi (feast boxes), so click on the post to learn a little more about these foods. Honestly in the stores, the fried foods and Okinawa hors d’oeuvres plates (オードブル) were flying off the shelves while the mainland-style foods were left somewhat untouched.
Some items in the aisles are traditional Japanese, while others are traditional Okinawan; here are a few of the things you may see: (I have more to add to this list, but here it is for now).
Oranges/mikan みかん (also called daidai 橙): you will see bags and bags of oranges for sale, these are an important symbol for New Year, meaning “generation to generation.” These are put on the altar, eaten, even attached to a shimenawa (rope wreath made from rice straw).
Beans 豆: I wrote a post on beans already… basically beans are good luck, ward of evil… all sorts of things really. Often the store sell different types of sweetened beans (particularly kuromame, black beans 黒豆), ready made in the refrigerator section for eating.
kuri kinton 栗きんとん: sweet chestnut mash with sweet potato. It symbolizes fortune and wealth.
kamaboko (fishcake) かまぼこ: usually seen in kouhaku 紅白 (red/pink and white colors), as well as fancy designs, or even shaped like Mt Fuji. Traditionally, slices of kamaboko are in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of Japan rising sun, and have a celebratory, festive meaning.
konbu 昆布: a kind of seaweed, usually tied in knots. It is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning “joy.”
datemaki (伊達巻): cooked sweet egg and hanpen (fishcake) rolled into an omelet; it has a ribbed outer surface like the sun. In Okinawa, something called castella kamaboko カステラかまぼこ, fishcake “cake” is also very popular. It is similar to “datemaki,” though datemaki is usually a more rolled shape where you can see layers. This is yellow with minced fish and eggs, resembling more of a castella sponge cake.
sardines/tazukuri (田作り): dried sardines cooked in shoyu; the fish were used historically to fertilize rice fields. It symbolizes an abundant harvest.
ebi 海老 (shrimp): hunched like an elder, so it represents a long life.
mochi/wagashi sweets: often you will see sweets in fortuitous shapes or in the shape of the upcoming year’s zodiac.
Another “favorite” here in Okinawa is nakamijiru 中身汁, intestines soup (pork). This is a very traditional dish for Okinawan people, but younger generations are (for perhaps obvious reasons) less inclined to eat it these days. Bags of pre-made soup (just heat and serve) and large bags of “chitlins” (pieces of intestines, pardon the American slang) are easily found in the center aisles of the store this time of year.
As mentioned before about toshikoshi soba 年越しそば (year-end soba, or year-crossing soba), buckwheat noodles are not very common in Okinawa. Rather, many people may eat Okinawa soba instead. So you may also see many rows of Okinawa soba noodles, broth, and pork prominently displayed in aisles under New Year signs.
茶処 真壁ちなー Makabe Chinaa is located in Itoman, in an old traditional Okinawan house. It is in a small, quiet neighborhood. When you drive there, you wonder if you are going the correct way… but not to worry, it is not too difficult to find and has ample parking.
When you enter, remove your shoes. Most of the seating is tatami seating. The menu is in both Japanese and English. It is mostly typical shokudo food– champuru, suba, and some others. The price is a little higher than some typical shokudo, but it is also a nicer setting.
The atmosphere is very relaxing, taking you back in time when life was a slower pace. There is no A/C or central heating, truly an old traditional building.
The food was pretty good; we ordered tofu chanpuru, fu chanpuru teishoku (came with mini soba and a choice of purple rice or juushii), and hirayachi. Overall a very nice experience.
Located in Nanjo (南城市), the southern area of Okinawa, this charming restaurant is quite popular and offers beautiful views, delicious food, and a garden walk. It is very popular, so it is important to show up early. It has a sister restaurant called Hamabe-no-chaya 浜辺の茶屋 (meaning “teahouse by the beach”), a few meters down the way located on the beach front and offering a more casual menu. Hamabe-no-chaya also has nice view overlooking the ocean, but I much prefer the food at Yama-no-chaya.
From the parking lot, you will see some walking sticks at the base of the stairs; feel free to use these, although the “climb” is not difficult, it may make it easier for elders or fun for children. When you get to the restaurant, they will present you with an English menu if you do not look Japanese. Try to get one of the window seats on the top floor if possible, although the entire inside is gorgeous.
We order a wood-fired pizza, salad, and the Sachibaru set meal, which is a vegetarian teishoku: it usually comes as miso/asa/tofu soup, tenpura, purple rice, pickles, umibudou, fruit, jimami tofu, konbu/konnyaku side dish, some kind of leafy green and peanut sauce, and sweetened barley. It may change a bit depending on the season, but the set meal is really so amazing. A must-try.
Sachibaru-no-niwa さちばるの庭 is the name of the gardens on the premise, and if you eat there you can enter the gardens for free. It is a very pleasant area to walk after lunch, however be sure to utilize their free bug spray during summer months.
Not only this, but it is reasonably priced! For the two of us it ends up to by ~3000円 since we do not hold back, but overall the quality is well worth this price.
I can never understand why gaikokujin insist on going to the low-quality and overly touristy restaurant in the area (I will not comment the name, but ask any gaijin about “food with a view in southern Okinawa” and they will probably mention something about “thai in the sky,” a place I highly do not recommend!) when such a wonderful place like Yama-no-chaya exists!
Address: 〒901-0604 沖縄県南城市玉城字玉城2-1
BONUS: Hamabe-no-chaya pictures. This place shares the same parking lot as its sister restaurant, so just copy & paste the same address into google maps. You can sit inside or outside, or even on the rooftop tables. Here you will be closer to the beach.
チャンプルー chanpuru means something mixed in Okinawa language. In Okinawa, there is “chanpuru culture” because there are so many different influences (American, Chinese, Japanese and traditional Ryukyu).
Chanpuru is a classic Okinawan dish that is stir-fried. There are many types of chanpuru, each featuring different foods. Typically some vegetables are stir-fried with a bit of egg, spam (or maybe pork), and tofu. Some dishes have bean sprouts, some have green onions, some have carrot or cabbage… I notice there are not a lot of “hard and fast” rules when it comes to chanpuru. The sauce is some combination to your taste, involving shoyu, dashi, cooking sake, and perhaps miso. Again, everyone obaasan has her own recipe. Otherwise, in grocery stores here in Okinawa, you can actually buy a sauce in the bottle. I was gifted some by one of my ladies. She had heard how much my husband loved goya and thoughtfully put together a Christmas gift basket of foods for us.
Goya chanpuru: probably the most “popular.” It is sort of the quintessential Okinawan dish, using the classic goya (bitter melon) as the center of the stir-fry, alongside some tofu, egg, spam and maybe some other veggies.
Fu chanpuru: fu is an interesting thing. It is usually long tubes of wheat gluten, often bits are added to miso soup here in Okinawa. It is very cheap, available in all grocery stores, and no real taste so it really soaks up whatever flavors you cook with. It has quickly become a favorite for my husband as it is fairly low in calories and takes on so much flavor of what it is cooked with. He has taken to ordering it at local shokudo where the waitress will sometimes look at him funny; I assume most large American gentlemen are not inclined to order it normally. But seriously, what starts as completely tasteless turns into a really flavorful food that soaks up a ton of sauce and seasoning.
Somen chanpuru: somen そうめん are simply very thin noodles. So this is essentially noodles stir-fried with sauce and vegetables. The taste is very different than yakisoba, though, so don’t get your hopes up. It probably my least favorite of the chanpuru variations, but still, the taste is okay. They just don’t soak up the flavor like fuu does.
Tofu chanpuru: The other chanpuru only have a bit of tofu, so this version has a lot of tofu. It is probably what you would expect, large bits of tofu with some vegetables with pork or spam in sauce.
Hechima chanpuru: this one is actually pretty rare to find, but I have seen it on occasion. I mean, it is hechima (loofah in English, nabera in Okinawan) so it really is not so popular, even among Okinawans.
For those of us in Okinawa, making chanpuru could not be easier with the widespread availability of all the ingredients. There is even a chanpuru sauce sold in grocery stores (if you do not want to bother making your own).
Shokudo translates to “dining hall.” This can mean a cafeteria or just a local restaurant. Whenever I see the kanji 食堂, I know I am going to get a cheap, simple meal popular with locals… which is pretty much always good.
At shokudo, there are often teishoku 定食, meaning “set meals.” You meal will come with small sides, like pickles or vegetables, maybe a small salad, miso soup, rice, etc. Often times, these places have self-service water and tea instead of offering much in the way of soft drinks.
In Okinawa, shokudo usually offer the local favorites of Okinawa soba, chanpuru, tonkatsu, ebi-fry, curry sets. Here are some examples:
Island tofu: Tofu in Okinawa is made differently than on mainland Japan. The best part is fresh tofu is delivered several times a day to grocery stores and markets all over island, still warm from the maker. It is the most amazing taste, and nothing like the little plastic packaged containers found in regular grocery stores. You can buy different types: yushi-doufu ゆし豆腐, firm tofu (called shima-doufu), and age-doufu 揚げ豆腐 (fried tofu) easily. One thing to remember is that it is delivered fresh multiple times a day– usually we only buy it the day we are going to make it, for the best taste. If you have some left over, put it in a lidded container filled with water; replace the water daily, but be sure to consume within a few days since it doesn’t contain preservatives.
We realized one day in the far future, we will probably return to Hawai’i and will no longer have this option. So, we decided we must learn how to make our own. I will share some secrets to the process in the link below: the link explains the process and show step-by-step picture instructions:
Here are the results from the fruits of our labor from AiAi Farm in Nakijin, on the Motobu peninsula of Okinawa.
If you read the linked imgur island, it explains the process. Nigari にがり is often used in the commercial and home process of tofu-making for coagulation to occur. That being said, it is actually traditional to use ocean water from the southern part of the island as it contains the proper minerals including MgCl2 for coagulation. And yes, I have tried both ways… collecting ocean water from not too far from my house, boiling it and using it in the process, it works great! But if you don’t live in southern Okinawa… well, nigari is just as good an option! It is very easy to find in the local grocery stores. Also at home, we modified a sushi-press box that I found cheap in one of the stores, though you can buy some plastic or metal ones out and about locally.