Okinawa: What & Where to Eat
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Located between Taiwan and Japan's mainland, Okinawa is made up of a number of islands with it's own rich and interesting history as an independent kingdom with it's subtropical climate. The birthplace of karate and also known as the "Hawaii of Japan".
Okinawan cuisine differs to the Japanese cuisine that we are used to due to their food culture being influenced by South East Asia, China, Japan, Korea and the US of A and because of their different climate, there's a difference with agriculture and their appetite.
Some well-known Okinawan food and drink items include champuru, Okinawa soba, taco rice, rafute, mimiga, umibudo, tofuyo, yagi sashimi, Orion beer and awamori.
One of the downsides of travelling solo is that you are unable to share the calories and try as many things as you want but that's really it, for me anyway.
There are still plenty of food places I would like to try in Okinawa but for now, below are some of the places that I highly recommend.
Doraemon ( どらえもん )
Address: 3-2-17 Kumoji, Naha
Opening hours: 11:00am - 11:00pm
There is no Doraemon in sight when you visit this restaurant, it's just operated by the owner who happens to like Doraemon.
Miyako Soba Doraemon is an Okinawa soba restaurant located off the busy Kokusai Dori Shopping Street.
Here, the soba noodles are thin and flat, and the soup is made of pork broth and bonito - hidden under the noodles are pieces of pork and fish cake.
The two ladies running this place were really friendly and it would be helpful if you can read hiragana because there isn't an English menu here.
Sata Andaagi (from Makishi Public Market)
Address: 2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha
Opening hours: 6:00am - 8:00pm
What is sata andaagi? It's Okinawa's version of a donut, except there's no hole.
It's a plain fried donut but it's done to perfection, I mean who doesn't love balls? ;)
This donut stall is located on the second floor of the Makishi Public Market, you can't miss it. I was served by a lovely middle-aged lady who came up to me after I had made my purchase and gave me a free donut so I didn't have to open my perfectly sealed bag.
A little bit more information about Makishi Public Market; it was established in 1972, a well-known and busy market that is also known as "the kitchen of the people of Naha in Okinawa".
Address: 1 Chome-23 Shurikinjocho, Naha
Opening hours: 10:00am - 5:00pm
As I was trekking up the Kinjo Stone Path in the sweltering heat (I was drenched in sweat), I stumbled across this hidden gem and decided to take a little break.
How can anyone not love a bowl of mango shaved ice? This was refreshing and tasty, it was exactly what I needed to combat the summer heat in Okinawa.
And what makes it all the better is the view of Naha from here. Simply breathtaking.
Ryukyu Sabo Ashibiuna
Address: 2-13 Shuri Tokuracho, Naha
Opening hours: 11:00am - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - 11:00pm
Ashibuina is a renovated version of an Okinawa traditional house that was built in the post war era on the site of a royal family house of Ryukyu Kingdom.
I ordered the Okinawa Soba Set, it was delicious and very filling. There are plenty of other things on the menu to try but bring your friends so you can try more things.
If you dine here, definitely request to sit outside in the garden because it's absolutely lovely.
Address: 1F 2-4-1 Izumizaki, Naha
Opening hours: 7:30am - 10:00pm (closed on Sunday)
At Marutama, they use tamanaha miso - a special miso used for their taco rice and other dishes on their menu. The miso has been preserved and reproduced at its private and traditional miso storehouse for 170 years since its founding.
The miso is even added to their salsa sauce which I mixed in thoroughly in my taco rice. It definitely taste different from any salsa I have ever had, it was delicious!
Also, I couldn't leave Okinawa without trying their local Orion beer - it was really light and easy to drink. I would happily drink it again on a night out.
Address: 1669-1 Serakaki, 字 Onna
Opening hours: 10:30am - 5:00pm
Nakamura Soba is a very popular Okinawa soba restaurant in Onna that is always crowded. Unlike the soba noodles that we are used to, Okinawa soba is made with wheat flour that is similar to ramen and udon noodles.
The soba noodles at Nakamura Soba is tasty and has the right amount of bite to it. The pork was fall off the bone and was delicious. the cold dipping noodles came with two sauces; soya sauce and a sesame sauce, personally I wasn't a fan of the sesame one but for a sesame lover, it will hit the right spot.
Address: 90 Nakayama, Nago
Opening hours: 11:00am - 5:00pm, 6:00pm - 10:00pm
They call this the highest class of tonkatsu (shoulder roast) - agu pork is well-known for its flavour, it was sweet and you can taste the umami in its fat.
The agu are black-haired piggies that were originally bred in Okinawa - they give birth to fewer offsprings, they grow slower and are smaller in comparison to western piggies.
At Ufuya, they only limit it to 20 servings of the agu tonkatsu per day so I am happy that I managed to order it. It was delicious and how a tonkatsu should be, I can't quite describe it except that it was really really good and I would eat it again when I'm back in Okinawa.
Also, on a side note, I tried to visit the Ganaha Chikusan Agu Village to learn more about the agu pigs but they were closed for the day :(
Address: 3-3-3 Kumoji, Naha
Opening hours: 12:00pm - 3:00pm, 5:30pm - 10:30pm (closed on Sunday)
Yunangi is located in the backstreet of the busy Kokusai Dori Shopping Street, a popular restaurant with locals and tourist alike. It's hard to miss this place, you just have to look for the long queue that's out the door and join the queue. Lucky for me as I was dining alone, I managed to get a counter seating straight away.
I couldn't leave Okinawa without trying their local dishes; rafute and goya champuru.
Rafute is stewed pork ribs dish and this one was really good. It was sweet and salty, fatty and gelatinous and melted in my mouth. It was so soft that you could cut it in half with your chopsticks, would have been perfect with a bowl of rice.
Goya champuru is bitter gourd stir fried with egg, tofu and sliced pork. It's still not my favourite dish but I will eat it because I know it's good for me.
Bitter Gourd Juice (Kokusai Dori Shopping Street)
Last but not least, some people love bitter gourd and some don't like it at all because of it's bitter taste.
Given I was on my first ever solo trip and feeling brave or some say stupid, I decided to give bitter gourd juice a go.
The result is in the video...
Bitter gourd juice? NEVER AGAIN.