This is going to be another, perhaps interesting and entertaining rant about soba noodles, one of my favourite Japanese dishes. However, this time I would love to introduce a slightly different type which is exceptionally distinctive for Okinawa Islands and simply called Okinawan soba noodles.
There is a lot of soba kinds in the mainlands, fairly similar to each other. But Okinawan soba noodles are very different as they are made from different ingredients and materials. You may imagine it as a thin, long and brownish pasta in a light and healthy non fatty pork broth which you can easily find in any Japanese restaurant. However, you will be awfully wrong and even might offend Okinawan people by expressing such an opinion.
My first encounter with Okinawan soba happened in a charming Hamahiga Island, home of stunning Muruku beach and Katsurenjyo Castle Ruins. The weather was beautifully sunny and unbelievably hot. Before cooling down our bodies in the ocean waters and relaxing on the beach me and my husband decided to explore the island a bit more and eat some local specialties.
Not surprisingly, we ended up in a very random place which looked like a deserted home with attached a metal garage full of weird and old things. Through an open doors we could see a mother sitting on tatami floor and playing around with a small baby. An old man, perhaps grandfather was playing sanshin, traditional Okinawan instrument and singing local songs. In the small concrete corner an old lady was washing the dishes. To our astonishment, it turned out to be one of the best local restaurants in the area.
As the hour was still pretty early, the restaurant was still closed. But the lady who was the main chef, as soon as she saw us, was very happy to cook what literally she could find in her fridge! And it happened to be Okinawan soba noodles and some tempura vegetables. Okinawan hospitality is truly amazing and unpredictable.
As I have mentioned above, Okinawan soba is very distinguished from its Japanese sister. Called in the local dialect “suba” is made out of wheat flower. Therefore, its colour is white or slightly yellowish and the noodles are very flat and thick in comparison with Japanese. As a matter of fact, the shape and the style of Okinawa soba noodles vary from island to island within the prefecture.
The broth is flavored with bonito flakes and seaweeds but its main taste depends on carefully skimmed pork, cooked for long hours. Standard toppings include green onion, fish cake, a thick slice of pork belly and red ginger. But that significantly varies from restaurant to restaurant.
I have to say that Okinawan soba are amazingly tasty. Just imagine the tender pork belly soaked in rich broth that just melts in your mouth. The meat is well braised until tender enough to be cut by chopstick. The boiled noodle is chewy and goes well with the soup. Almost a paradise in your mouth. And eating it outdoors, close to the view of turquoise and clear ocean with the Okinawan sanshin music in the background makes it an unforgettable experience. What could you wish more?
Dagmara is a designer and writer of Polish life style magazine, currently living and working in Tokyo. Her biggest passion is traveling and exploring what has been hidden and unknown as well as meeting people from all over the world and experiencing new cultures. She loves cycling, yoga and long walks. As a food lover, she deeply scrutinizes gastronomy world and Japanese cuisine through her own cooking and creating own recipes. The best way for her to relax is to go to hot spring or read a book.