Taste Japan’s Island Delights in Okinawa!

Japan’s southernmost region of Okinawa Prefecture is a treasured tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, lush natural scenery and unique culture. Among these attractions, the region’s one-of-a-kind cuisine is an unmissable highlight. Born from a subtropical climate mixed with a rich historical background, the distinct flavors of a diverse blend of ingredients makes Okinawan cuisine a true feast for the senses.

Here, we introduce the charm of Okinawan cuisine along with some tasty recommendations along the way.

Okinawa Soba

Okinawa soba is the soul food of the region. In this classic dish, thick and chewy noodles sit in a broth made from pork bone and bonito, topped with “sanmainiku” (pork belly), “kamaboko” fish cake, green onions and a host of other ingredients. Despite being called “soba”, the noodles are made of wheat rather than buckwheat “soba” flour. The distinct, springy texture of these noodles and the rich flavor of the pork and bonito based stock are what set this dish apart.

Okinawa soba is served at many restaurants on the island. Toppings and seasonings vary from place to place, but wherever you choose, the unique deliciousness of Okinawa soba is sure to make your taste buds sing. The smooth, light soup is perfect for a hot day on the island. Be sure to try this favorite of tourists and locals at least once.

Taco Rice

Taco rice is a local Okinawan dish now known nationwide. Taco ingredients placed on top of rice makes for a hearty, satisfying meal. Standard ingredients are minced meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, but the arrangements may vary depending on the store. Spicy taco meat mixed with cheese and crisp, refreshing lettuce go perfectly with rice in this standout dish.

The hearty treat is rumored to have been created under the influence of Japan’s U.S. military bases. The combo of Mexican tacos and Japanese rice is a dish that could only have come from Okinawa. Recently, more and more taco rice specialty shops are popping up. Especially popular among young people, it’s a great choice at a reasonable price.

Goya Champuru

Goya Champuru is a stir-fry dish made with the sharp flavors of the green vegetable “goya” bitter melon. This classic dish of Okinawan home cooking is usually stir-fried with island tofu, eggs, pork, and heaps of other ingredients. The distinct bitter accent of this nutritious vegetable, the umami of pork, and the soft texture of island tofu are a perfect match. The egg gently brings the whole dish together and adds a fragrant flavor.

Among its wealth of nutrients, bitter melon is known to be rich in vitamin C, effective in preventing heat exhaustion. Island tofu is also packed with high-quality protein and calcium, making Goya Champuru a classic example of Okinawa’s famously healthy cuisine.

When made at home, the dish has a distinctly simple seasoning, but recently the variations in recipes are exploding, with a flood of original goya champuru versions waiting to be discovered.


Rafute is one of Okinawa’s best known dishes made by slowly simmering “sanmainiku” (pork belly meat with skin). Its melt-in-your-mouth texture and oodles of umami are what make this an unmissable dish. The dish requires long cooking times, but that is exactly what brings out its deep flavor. Simmered for several hours in a soy sauce-based stock with a range of delectable ingredients including awamori liquor, brown sugar, and garlic, the pork softens, ready to fall apart at the slightest touch.

The fatty blocks of pork appear heavy, but since every bite melts on the tongue in an instant, you’ll find the whole thing gone all too soon.

People love to eat it with rice, but also as a snack that pairs well with various liquors, especially awamori. Packed with rich collagen, a bite of rafute may also make us more beautiful. So dig into this traditional soul food at the heart of Okinawan culture.

Umibudo/Sea Grapes

As the name suggests, “umibudo,” meaning sea grapes, are a type of seaweed that looks like the vine-grown fruit. Burgeoning in the seas of ​​Okinawa, these delightful ingredients are especially famous for its unique texture. The crisp pop and jiggle of the plant also carry the fragrance of rocky coastlines that tantalizes the taste buds.

Their mild flavor is easy for all to enjoy, often used as a salad topping, in pasta or served in one of Japan’s many vinegar-based dishes.Their translucent appearance imparts a feeling of coolness, while the refreshing taste makes them the perfect remedy for a hot Okinawa day, highly recommended on summer menus throughout the region.

Umibudo are a nutritious ingredient rich in minerals, carotene, calcium, and much more. In recent years, they have been garnering acclaim as boons for both beauty and health. Fresh umibudo are best eaten raw. This brings out the best of their crisp texture. Umibudo are widely available at grocery stores and markets in Okinawa.

Beni Imo/Purple sweet potato

Famous for their vivid violet hues, Beni Imo, or “Purple sweet potato,” are one of Okinawa’s staple specialties. Rich in a type of polyphenol called anthocyanin, these noteworthy roots are gaining fame for their detox effects. They possess a unique, syrupy texture and elegant sweetness, but the fluffy texture is what sets them apart from other sweet potatoes.

Although many dishes use Beni Imo, the most well-known are sweets such as “Beni Imo tarts” and “Beni Imo chinsuko,” loved for their eye-catching color and mild sweetness. Dessert drinks made with Beni Imo are also all the rage, from “Beni Imo ice cream” to “Beni Imo lattes.” On social media, they’re sure to add some pop to your posts.

As souvenirs, purple sweet potato treats are a crowd pleaser. Cute packaging adds to the appeal, making these morsels a smash hit. Pick some up as a memento of your time in Japan’s southern islands.

Sata Andagi

Sata Andagi are deep-fried snacks known as Okinawan donuts. “Sata” means sugar, and “andagi” refers to deep-fried sweets. Basically, they are made when sugar is added to wheat flour dough, rolled into bite-sized pieces, and deep fried. A common way to enjoy them is to dip them in granulated sugar or “kuromitsu” brown sugar syrup fresh out of the fryer. Adored for their crispy outside and chewy inside, this harmony of mild sweetness with a delightful crunch make sata andagi a favorite with people of all ages.

A frequent presence at festivals and other events, the sight of these stalls have become a hallmark of the season in Okinawa. Rustic simplicity with flavors that deliver a blast from the past. Why not treat yourself to a snack while seeing the sights?


Awamori is the iconic liquor of Okinawa. Rice is fermented with black koji mold to make rice koji, then fermented for about 2 more weeks and distilled. Although considered a type of shochu, distilled alcoholic beverages made from rice are a rarity in Japan. The standout refreshing, palate-cleansing quality and crisp taste puts this strong drink in a league of its own.

Since ancient times, awamori has been woven into the land and culture of Okinawa. Treasured as an essential part of people’s lives, it appears wherever gatherings occur, a constant feature of celebrations and banquets. Awamori is also popular as an aged alcoholic beverage. Aged awamori takes on a well-rounded smooth flavor with added depth. Sampling and comparing the varieties is a great way to broaden awareness of this drink’s versatility.

Drinking and Okinawa cuisine go hand in hand. Awamori in particular, goes well with meat dishes such as rafute. Experience bliss Okinawa-style, with a glass of Awamori paired with a simple, hearty meal.


This introduction to some of Okinawa’s classic foods is just the beginning. Many more mouthwatering island dishes are waiting to be tasted. The outstanding food culture and delicious delicacies of the region are sure to spice up your travel memories. Okinawa is one of Japan’s premier resort destinations. Stop by and enjoy a time of true luxury, savoring local cuisine surrounded by the soothing beauty of the sea.

In the local dialect, Okinawan cuisine is called “nuchigusui” (medicine of life). Food that nurtures the body will surely satisfy the heart. On your travels, get a sense of the island culture and feel the warmth of the people through Okinawan cuisine. These may be the most vital ingredients for a truly unforgettable trip.