Okinawan Food: 8 Delicious Dishes to Try

From delicious to bizarre, Amelia Gambier tries some of Okinawa’s famous food on her trip to the remote islands south of mainland Japan.


Okinawa Food Stall Photo © iStock/tdub303

All of the foods listed here are easy to come across. The Okinawan people are very proud of their heritage, so menus are filled with ‘Okinawa style’ dishes. 

There are restaurants to suit every budget, and some of the best food in Okinawa can be found in the market places, where street food can be picked up inexpensively. Tofu features a lot in Okinawa cooking, as does pork. 

The island also played host to American military personnel for many years, so some foods are a Japanese-American fusion. And for some reason, spam is pretty popular.

Taco Rice

This is a prime example of American and Japanese cuisines merging, and is exactly what the name suggests – the filling of a taco, on rice.

Although it doesn’t feel very authentic, this dish is often featured in home-cooking. It’s delicious and makes for a quick, easy meal.

Goya Champura

A stir-fry dish which consists of goya (bitter melon), luncheon meat (spam), tofu, egg, and other vegetables.

While the combination may not sound overly appealing, it's surprisingly tasty, and the flavours work well together.


Soba noodles in Okinawa are different to the ones found on mainland Japan. Okinawan soba are thick, wheat noodles, compared to traditional udon noodles.

These noodles are often served with other Okinawa specialities like rafute (pork belly) and are an izakaya specialty. The soft, fatty pork goes well with the chewy noodles.

Soba noodles in Okinawa. Photo credit: Amelia Gambier


All of the pig is used in Okinawan cuisine, so aside from the already-mentioned rafute, adventurous eaters can try some of the less frequently sampled parts.

Mimigaa (pig’s ear), and chiragaa (skin from the face), are two curiously popular examples.


Often suggested as a side-dish, umi-budō (sea grapes), is a type of seaweed. They have little salty bobbles, which burst in your mouth. It’s surprisingly pleasant, and tastes different to the usual seaweed.

While it might be expensive on some menus, it costs a fraction in markets, and is eaten fresh.

Sea grapes in Okinawa. Photo credit: Amelia Gambier


Shikuwasa is a type of lime native to the island of Okinawa. It’s very refreshing as a juice, and also appears as jam, chips, and in sweets. It's also available mixed with beer, which gives a slightly sweet, very drinkable (but very alcoholic) mix! 


Benimo is an Okinawan purple potato. It’s a flavour that, similarly to the shikuwasa, can be found in a bunch of products. You’ll find these are common in benimo cakes and in ice-cream. There are ice-cream parlours all along the main streets, and the potato ice-cream is pleasant, without tasting too strong. 


Okinawans love desserts. Chinsukō is a traditional biscuit – a little like shortbread – though it comes in many varieties. It’s on sale absolutely everywhere, and even has a small museum dedicated to it. 

Sata andagi, a small Japanese doughnut. Photo credit: Amelia Gambier

Another option is sata andagi, a small doughnut. They’re more dense than western-style doughnuts, but still tasty.

These, and other treats, are available from either the hordes of touristy gift shops, or fresh from the small bakery stands dotted around the markets for a more reasonable price.

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