[Travelogue] The Okinawa Escapade – Let’s Go Local!

Mikasa 三笠松山店

img_0784As local as you can get in Okinawa! Dine at Mikasa Shokudo for a no frills meal, satisfaction guaranteed! Think Cha Chan Teng 茶餐厅 in Hong Kong or Kopi Tiam 咖啡店 in Singapore. Helming the kitchen are three elderly women who barely have time to look up from their hot woks and pans. At 3 in the afternoon, the laid back local diner still had a handful of customers tucking in hearty local favorites.

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Okinawans believe the Goya is largely responsible for their good health and longevity. So, tuck in!

Mikasa Shokudo is where I had my first Okinawan classic, the Goya Chanpuru (stir fried bitter melon) and never looked back. Okinawa’s goya is small but potent (bitter), intimidating many first-timers. But seriously, it really isn’t so bitter. In fact, this popular home-style stir fry produces a flavor that is absolutely appetizing with steamed rice and on its own. Eggs are casually scrambled in amongst firm tofu chunks, and spam slices are added for a bit of saltiness and color. The thinly sliced goya, lightly fried to retain some crunch and possibly per-salted to reduce the bitterness, balances the rest of the ingredients perfectly. Altogether, this humble dish just works! Everyone should give it a shot… and don’t stop at the first bite! It grows on you😀!

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Obachan busy slicing her second load of beef.

At one end of the long open kitchen, Obachan was busy slicing large blocks of beef. Upon inquiring between halted English, sign language and menu flipping, we discovered that beef was a favored choice.

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The stir fried beef with spring onion and flavorful firm tofu cubes was the house special. 

Beef slices were quick fried with spring onions and the same yummy Okinawan tofu. I wasn’t expecting buttery, melt-in-your-mouth steak given the price (550JPY). And I was right. However, neither was it leathery or dry. The meat was tender and the spring onions flavored the dish nicely. If you’re not snooty about your beef, this makes a decent meal!

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Can’t get any sweeter than this!

Another beef top seller at Mikasa is the Minced Beef Rice. Much like a fried rice with minced beef and eggs, albeit slightly wetter. The generous amount of chopped onions lent the sweetest flavor to this dish. It was very yummy!img_8937I like the simple set up of this modest diner, the mismatched furniture, the retro decorations, the friendly server who spoke zero English and the Obachan chefs that smiled shyly when I held up my camera. But most of all, I liked the home-style food that reminds me of my own mother’s cooking. Cheap, simple everyday ingredients with not a single garnish or a second’s thought put into plating! As much as I appreciate presentation, sometimes, simplicity is all you need!

Mikasa Shokudo 三笠松山店 @ 1 Chome-3-17 Matsuyama, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0032, Japan


TACO RICE CAFE KIJIMUNA  アメリカンビレッジ

img_0755With over 47,000 US troops stationed in Okinawa, its no wonder some western food culture would rub off on the otherwise stringent Japanese culinary. Replacing the taco shell with Japanese short grained rice, throw in all the other taco ingredients and voila! You’ve got yourself a Taco Rice! To my amazement, it actually works! I mean, if you like all the ingredients in a taco, and rice, there’s nothing to hate here!img_0759Located in the American Village itself is the popular Kijimuna Taco Rice Cafe, specializing in all kinds of Taco Rice! But it is their “Omutaco” that’s flying out the kitchen daily!img_0761Signature dish, Omutaco starts with Japanese rice at the bottom, followed by tasty tacos meat, a generous layer of cheese, sliced tomato and shredded lettuce. To finish, semi-cooked soft egg is poured over the top, then chilli sauce and mayonnaise! Every mouthful explodes with richness and if that’s not good enough, feel free to add some Tabasco! We were pleased with how moist and juicy the meat was. And Japanese style omelette goes surprisingly well with Tex-Mex!img_0763Another favorite, Taco Rice with Bacon was just as delicious. Well…bacon makes everything better, no? This is served with a side of chili which comes in either mild, spicy and very spicy! Taco rice is true blue Okinawan soul food and a uniquely good one. A great quick meal on the spot or on the go that’s packed with everything you need from carbs, dairy, protein to fiber! This is one fusion fare that doesn’t try too hard but scored!

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Can’t miss the American Village with that big a$$ ferris wheel!
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More hot sauce? Why not!
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Every mouthful is moist and bursting with flavors!
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Did somebody say “bacon”?

Besides the obvious western influence in Taco Rice, this is a dish that’s truly Okinwan. A dish that many children grow up eating and many older generations have learned to enjoy!

Kijimuna Taco Rice Cafe @ 9-1 Mihama, Depot Island Bldg C Wing 2F, Nakagami-gun, Chatan-cho 904-0115, Okinawa Prefecture

 

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