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Okinawa: Top 20 Must-Try Local Foods

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Okinawa is very different from Japan's mainland in terms of its food and culture. From Okinawan soba noodles to taco rice, the international influence and tropical weather have created a unique local cuisine that is worth a try!

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Okinawa's Internationally Influenced Cuisine

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Okinawa is very different from the main island of Japan in culture, atmosphere, language, and cuisine. The islands of Okinawa are in close proximity to China and Taiwan and they are also the main location for a variety of United States Forces in Japan. These factors have influenced the local food visibly, making Okinawa's cuisine one of a kind.

Okinawa Cuisine: 20 Famous Dishes

1. Okinawa Agu Pork and Ishigaki Beef
2. Beni Imo: Purple Sweet Potatoes
3. Okinawa Soba Noodles
4. Taco Rice
5. Goya Champuru Stir-Fry
6. Hirayachi Savory Crepes
7. Rafute: Juicy Pork Belly
8. SPAM Onigiri
9. Mimiga
10. Umibudo
11. Sukugarasu: A Healthy Snack
12. Yushi Dofu
13. Jimami Dofu
14. Tofuyo
15. Abura Miso
16. Sata Andagi: Okinawan Doughnuts
17. Chinbin: Black Sugar Pancakes
18. Chinsuko Snacks
19. Okinawa Ice Cream
20. Shikuwasa Cytrus
Additional Travel Preparations: Car Rentals, Hotels, and WiFi

1. Okinawa Agu Pork and Ishigaki Beef

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Okinawa's Agu Pork comes from a breed of pig that was first introduced to Okinawa from China over 600 years ago. Agu pork is highly valued due to its scarcity. The meat has an intense marbling and a slightly sweet taste.

Ishigaki Island is a part of Okinawa famous for its luscious nature and delicious beef. Ishigaki's beef falls into the wagyu category, the same category which includes the famous Kobe beef. It has a rich marbling and soft texture that melts in your mouth.

2. Beni Imo: Purple Sweet Potatoes

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Picture from Roasted Sweet Potato Shop Fuji - Choose Between 8 Different Flavors!

Sweet potatoes are found all over Japan but Okinawa is especially famous for its beni imo, or purple sweet potato. It does not only offer an impressive deep violet color but also a rich, dense flavor.

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Purple sweet potatoes can be found in a variety of snacks in Okinawa. One of the most popular souvenirs containing beni imo is the purple sweet potato tart.

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3. Okinawa Soba Noodles: Ramen-like Delight

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Usually, the word soba refers to buckwheat noodle dishes in Japan. However, in Okinawa, this kind of soba is not very popular and is referred to as "Japanese soba" or "black soba" in the region.

Okinawa Soba is reminiscent of ramen and consists of thick wheat noodles in a flavorful broth. The broth is traditionally made with an edible seaweed called konbu, bonito flakes, and pork.

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

A common variety is Soki Soba. "Soki" is the Okinawan word for stewed pork ribs. They are used as a topping in this version of soba, often together with pickled ginger and scallions.

4. Taco Rice: Tex-Mex meets Japanese Cuisine

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Picture from Hair Salon NALU In Tokyo - International And Fashion-Forward

Taco Rice is said to have been invented in Okinawa in the 1980s by a Japanese restaurant owner wanting to cater to the taste of the American soldiers visiting his restaurant. Observing the fact that many of them seemed to love tacos, he put a Japanese twist on this dish, which is quick and easy to make.

The base ingredients are ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes served on rice. The ground beef is seasoned with typical taco meat spices, making it reminiscent of the Tex-Mex dish.

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5. Goya Champuru: Healthy Stir-Fry with Bitter Gourd

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

The word champuru refers to something being "mixed up" in the Okinawan language. Goya is the Japanese word for bitter gourd, which is a vegetable used often in Okinawan dishes.

Goya champuru is an Okinawan stir fry. The traditional base consists of egg, tofu, goya and also some form of meat, often pork belly or SPAM meat. Champuru is often used in Okinawan households as a way to use leftover vegetables and meat.

6. Hirayachi: Savory Emergency Crepes

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Hirayachi is a savory pancake unique to Okinawa. It has a base consisting of eggs, flour, salt, black pepper and green onion, and can be eaten without seasoning or dipped in a sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil.

Hirayachi is a traditional emergency food in Okinawa. In many remote areas, bad weather can still cause power outages; hirayachi can easily be made on a portable gas stove with ingredients everyone usually has on hand.

7. Rafute: Juicy Pork Belly

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Rafute is a braised pork belly dish slow-cooked in awamori (Okinawan distilled liquor). The sweet and savory dish was inspired by Chinese cuisine.

Every family and restaurant has its own unique recipe. This is why it is highly reccomended to try it at different locations when visiting Okinawa.

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8. SPAM Onigiri: Cross Culture Comfort Food

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Onigiri, or rice balls, are a snack choice enjoyed all over Japan. However. the SPAM and egg onigiri is very specific to Okinawa. It is a sandwich-type onigiri that contains SPAM meat and fried egg, sometimes omelet, sandwiched between rice and nori seaweed.

Due to Okinawa's American influence mentioned previously, SPAM meat is very popular. It is used in many different dishes ranging from champuru to miso soup.

9. Mimiga: Delicious with the Local Alcohol

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Mimiga might be a more acquired taste as this dish consists of boiled or steamed pig ears. The Okinawans have the saying "every part of a pig can be eaten except for its hooves and its oink" and mimiga proves this point.

This crunchy side dish is usually served with mayonnaise, ponzu sauce or peanut dressing. It goes well with the local alcohol.

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10. Umibudo: Refreshing and Satisfying

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Umibudo translates to sea grapes in English. It gets its name from the fact that it looks like tiny strings of grapes. It is a type of edible seaweed that only grows in the warm waters of Okinawa.

Umi budo has a refreshing but salty taste. The little balls pop in your mouth, releasing a salty liquid. The texture is similar to caviar, which is why some people refer to it as "green caviar". Umi budo can be used as a garnish for many types of food or eaten straight with soy sauce, vinegar or on its own.

Check out flights from Tokyo to Okinawa now: skyticket

11. Sukugarasu - Healthy Snack Food

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Sukugarasu is usually an izakaya (Japanese bar) food consisting of tiny pickled fish served on small tofu cubes. The reason the fish is served on tofu cubes is due to it simply being too salty to eat by itself. The soft tofu acts like a cushion and mellows out the salty flavor and the crunchy texture of the pickled fish. It is another dish usually served with alcohol.

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12. Yushi Dofu - Fresh Soft Tofu Dish

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Yushi dofu is soft tofu that hasn't been dehydrated or pressed into shape. It is very flavorful as it still contains some of the brine (saltwater solution), and has a full soybean taste.

Yushi dofu can be eaten by itself with soy sauce, used in miso soup or even on soki soba. The texture and flavor profile are very unique and people who usually think tofu has no flavor should definitely give it a try.

13. Jimami Dofu - Creamy Peanut Tofu

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Jimami dofu is a tofu-like dish made from peanuts. The springy texture is achieved by mixing the liquid extracted from peanuts with sweet potato starch. Usually, no soy is used.

Jimami dofu is creamy, slightly sweet and is usually eaten plain or with soy sauce. While it can be tried at bars and restaurants throughout Okinawa, it is also available pre-packaged in supermarkets and souvenir shops.

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14. Tofuyo - The Emperor's Snack

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Tofuyo is a fermented tofu delicacy made with awamori. The texture is said to be that of cream cheese and the taste is strong, with the alcoholic note of the awamori clearly present.

Tofuyo used to be only available to the emperor’s family and a few privileged nobles during the Ryukyu Kingdom era, as it is very time-consuming to make. Nowadays it is freely available to anyone, and if you like strong flavors it is worth giving it a try.

15. Abura Miso - Rich Rice Topping

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Abura miso is a rice topping made from miso (fermented soybean paste) that is cooked with sugar and pork to form a paste. It is normally used to top white rice, in rice balls or as a vegetable dip.

Abura miso is rich, sweet and flavorful. It only takes a small amount to flavor any dish of your choosing. Souvenir shops sell abura miso in small glass jars and it makes for a unique souvenir for any rice lover.

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16. Sata Andagi - Okinawan Doughnut

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Sata Andagi is often refered to as the Okinawan doughnut. They are small, dense and crunchy deep-fried cake balls. Their texture and flavor is reminiscent of old fashioned doughnuts.

Black sugar, or molasses, is the star ingredient in Sata Andagi. It gives it a sweet and smoky flavor. The most common Sata Adangi are plain, but they do also come in typical Okinawan flavors such as purple sweet potato.

17. Chinbin - Delicious Black Sugar Pancakes

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

At first glance, Chinbin might look like ordinary pancakes. However, they are another treat featuring black sugar, which makes them rich in flavor and slightly moist in texture.

Chinbin can be bought premade, but the most common form is chinbin powder mix which works just like the usual pancake mix. Why not try taking some chinbin mix home with you and surprise your friends and family with Okinawan pancakes?

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18. Chinsuko - Okinawa's Most Popular Souvenir

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Chinsuko are a famous souvenir to bring home from Okinawa. They are oval-shaped cookies made with wheat flour, sugar, and lard. In flavor, chinsuko are reminiscent of shortbread cookies, but are much more fragile and melt on your tongue as soon as you bite into them.

Chinsuko are often found in plain, black sugar and sea salt flavors. Salt cookies are generally common in Okinawa. The sea salt really brings out the flavor and cuts through the sweetness.

19. Okinawa Ice Cream - Unique Flavors

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Picture from Blue Seal - Okinawan Ice Cream And The Best Japanese Crepes In Tokyo!
Okinawa is the hottest place in Japan––even in winter, it rarely drops below 15°C. Ice cream shops can be found everywhere, with some carrying flavors unique to Okinawa.

Blue Seal is Okinawa's most popular ice cream brand. These days, Blue Seal shops can be found all over Japan, offering Okinawan flavors such as shikuwasa, purple sweet potato and salt cookies.

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

Sea salted ice cream is also very popular in Okinawa. It can be found at many ice cream stores as well as in the freezer section at the local supermarkets. The sea salt is believed to replenish the salt lost from sweating in the Okinawan heat.

20. Shikuwasa Cytrus: The Refreshing Taste of Okinawa

Top 20 Foods To Try In Okinawa

The shikuwasa is a small green citrus fruit native to Okinawa and Taiwan. Its flavor profile is somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit, and it is mainly used to flavor dishes in a similar way to lemon and lime.

Shikuwasa is a flavor strongly associated with Okinawa, and shikuwasa-flavored items include everything from drinks to ice cream to salad dressing.

Check out flights from Tokyo to Okinawa now: skyticket

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Enjoy the Flavors of Okinawa

Okinawa is always worth a visit. The unique culture and endless beaches make it a favorite vacation spot even for Japanese people.

As introduced in this article, Okinawa has a one-of-a-kind cuisine due to weather and international influence. When in Okinawa, make sure to try the local food with a refreshing glass of their famous local beverage Orion Beer.

FAQ

What food is Okinawa famous for?

Okinawa, a prefecture in Japan, is renowned for its unique cuisine that is not only delicious but also known for promoting longevity. Some of the foods Okinawa is famous for include: Goya (a vegetable often used in Okinawan cuisine, known for its bitter taste and health benefits), Rafute (Okinawan Braised Pork Belly, a dish consisting of thick slices of pork belly simmered in a savory mixture until the meat becomes tender and flavorful), Okinawa Soba noodles (featuring tender stewed pork ribs as topping), Jushi (a traditional Okinawan dish made with seasoned rice mixed with various ingredients such as mushrooms, carrots, and pork), Umibudo (unique seaweed like-structures are often served as a delicacy and are known for their refreshing pop of flavor resembling mild seawater), Taco Rice (a fusion dish incorporating elements of Tex-Mex cuisine with traditional Okinawan ingredients, including seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on a bed of rice), Champuru (a stir-fry dish that typically includes tofu, vegetables, and some type of meat or seafood, known for its simple yet flavorful combination), and Mozuku (a type of seaweed often served as a salad, known for its health benefits and unique texture).
 
These dishes highlight the diverse culinary influences that have shaped Okinawan cuisine, making it both delicious and distinctive.

What fruit is Okinawa famous for?

Okinawa is famous for a unique purple-fleshed sweet potato known as beni imo. This sweet potato is a staple in Okinawan cuisine and is used in various dishes ranging from desserts to savory dishes. It is not a fruit but a tuber that is known for its vibrant color and sweet flavor. Additionally, Okinawa is also known for its cultivation of tropical fruits such as pineapples, papayas, mangoes, and shikwasa (a type of small green citrus fruit). These fruits thrive in Okinawa's warm climate and sandy soil, contributing to the rich agricultural heritage of the region.

Why is Okinawa called the Hawaii of Japan?

Okinawa is often referred to as the "Hawaii of Japan" due to several similarities between the two regions. These include the tropical climate with beautiful beaches, lush vegetation, and vibrant marine life; tourism, as both Okinawa and Hawaii are popular tourist destinations known for their stunning natural landscapes, clear waters, and rich cultural heritage; cultural influences (both regions have a unique cultural heritage that sets them apart from the mainland. Okinawa, with its distinct Ryukyuan culture, and Hawaii, with its Polynesian and American influences, have rich histories and traditions that attract visitors looking for unique cultural experiences), the Pacific Island Connection (geographically, both Okinawa and Hawaii are located in the Pacific Ocean, albeit at different ends. This shared location in the Pacific has led to similarities in aspects of their natural environments and landscapes); relaxed atmosphere (Okinawa and Hawaii are both known for their laid-back and relaxed atmospheres, where visitors can unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life compared to bustling cities on the mainland).
While there are similarities between Okinawa and Hawaii that have earned Okinawa the nickname "Hawaii of Japan," each region also has its unique cultural nuances, histories, and attractions that make them distinct destinations worth exploring in their own right.

What do they eat for breakfast in Okinawa?

Breakfast in Okinawa often consists of a variety of dishes that reflect the region's unique culinary traditions and focus on health and longevity. Some common breakfast items in Okinawa include Jushi (Okinawan mixed rice), Miso Soup, Sweet Potato, stir-fried vegetables, tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelet), fruits (tropical fruits like pineapples, mangoes, and papayas are common in Okinawan breakfasts, providing a refreshing and sweet component to the meal), and green tea.
 
Okinawan breakfasts often emphasize a balance of flavors, textures, and nutrients, reflecting the region's focus on healthful eating practices and longevity.

What is the food street in Okinawa Japan?

Kokusai Dori, located in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, is a famous food street known for its vibrant atmosphere and plethora of dining options. It is a bustling street lined with restaurants, cafes, street food stalls, souvenir shops, and boutiques, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
 
Kokusai Dori translates to "International Street" in English, and it is one of the main thoroughfares in Naha. The street offers a diverse selection of Okinawan cuisine, Japanese dishes, and international foods, catering to various tastes and preferences. Visitors can indulge in traditional Okinawan specialties like goya champuru, taco rice, soki soba, and various seafood dishes.
 
Apart from food, Kokusai Dori is also a great place to explore Okinawan culture, shop for souvenirs, and experience the lively atmosphere of Naha. The street comes alive especially during festivals and events when performances, parades, and street vendors add to the festive ambiance.
 
Overall, Kokusai Dori is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts looking to sample Okinawan cuisine and immerse themselves in the vibrant culinary scene of Okinawa.

 

Additional Travel Preparations: Car Rentals, Hotels, and WiFi

For getting around Okinawa, we suggest renting a car for better mobility.

Rental Car Reservations: Compare a selection of major car rental companies across Japan on Tabirai Car Rental

MATCHA offers an exclusive 10% discount coupon for international visitors when renting a vehicle from Nippon Rent-A-Car, one of Japan's leading rental car companies.

There are numerous Nippon Rent-A-Car offices around Tokyo and Okinawa. Be sure to check it out if you're considering renting a car!

After deciding on your travel itinerary and travel method for Okinawa, the next thing to book is accommodations.

If you're looking for an accommodation or hotel in Okinawa at a value, please check out Agoda or Booking.com.

In the MATCHA article below, we've introduced recommended hotels with great accessibility to popular sightseeing destinations in Okinawa, including Kokusai Shopping Street and the American Village. Feel free to refer to this article for more information!



Booking.com

Places that offer free Wi-Fi in Japan are limited. International visitors will find it handy to rent a pocket Wi-Fi during their travels.

MATCHA offers a 30% off coupon for NINJA WiFi, so please take advantage of this discount!

We hope everyone will create wonderful memories of their Okinawa travels!

Main image by Pixta

Written by

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and am living in Tokyo, Japan since 2008. I am native in German and English.

I am a cat-mom to three rescue cats and I have a deep love for 90s rock music, kickboxing, history, chocolate and cookie dough, anything pistachio flavored, cats and bats, dragons and vampires and all things creepy-cute.

My favorite book author is Anne Rice. My favorite band is LUNA SEA.

My most recommended Japanese movie is 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence', featuring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

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