NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (July 2022) - Okinawa: A Journey to Japan’s Tropics (沖縄)
This luxurious, local island dashi is a rarity even in Japan! It’s made from single-line bonito (skipjack tuna) from Miyakojima Island which is combined with the mild taste of shiitake and konbu to provide a full spectrum of umami producing amino acids.
Shimazakeya carefully selects the regional ingredients for their products by visiting with each of their producers in Okinawa to ensure the highest quality and taste, and to convey the personalities and thoughts of the locals. They offer a wide variety of seasonal products which showcase Okianwa’s rich agricultural and marine diversity.
Ingredients: Bonito flakes (from Okinawa), salt, mackerel flakes, shiitake mushrooms, yeast extract, yakiagobushi (dried and smoked flying fish), konbu (kelp), sugarcane powder, bonito extract, soy sauce (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses: Add the dashi packet to a pot of 500ml-600ml water and heat. Use chopsticks to ensure the water soaks into the entire packet. After boiling, simmer over medium heat for 4-5 mins. Remove the packet and it is ready to serve. Use in simmered dishes, miso soup, or in theRafute and Papaya Irichi recipes provided.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening. Once made, store dashi in the fridge.
SHIKUWASA SALT PONZU
Producer: Aka Marusou
Stroll the streets and backyards of Okinawa and you’ll come across trees bearing flat, green citrus fruits known as shikuwasa (or hirami lemon). These sour fruits (their name means “eat the sourness”) are prized by locals for their refreshing tart flavor and rich antioxidant flavonoids.
Here shikuwasa, bathed in the tropical sun of Okinawa, is combined with sea salt from Ishigaki Island, the southernmost island of the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa (which also happens to be the hometown of our co-founder, Aki Sugiyama’s, family!). Seawater surrounding the local coral reefs is dried at low temperatures to remove any water, leaving behind a pure, nutrient-rich sea salt full of sea minerals. Together they create a taste and aroma that is reminiscent of summertime in Okinawa and a seasoning that was awarded an official recommendation from Okinawa Prefecture.
Aka Marusou is a seasoning shop based in Okinawa that has been in business for 72 years. Although it has been long-established, the average age of the employees is 37 years old. They create products using local Okinawa ingredients as a way of sharing the rich spirit and nature of Okinawa.
Ingredients: Shikuwasa (hirami lemon) juice (from Okinawa), rice fermented seasoning, sugar, vinegar, salt (from Okinawa), yeast extract, vitamin C
Suggested uses: With a mild acidity and refreshing citrus flavor, this versatile ponzu can be used as an addition to salad dressings, to pickle vegetables, as a sauce for seafood, tofu and carpaccio, to season sushi rice, as a dipping sauce for gyoza and anywhere else you would like to add dash of citrus umami. Given the delicate flavors we recommend not heating it.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening.
PURPLE SWEET POTATO KUZUMOCHI (GLUTINOUS RICE) POWDER
Producer: Arakaki Gurou Shouten
Mochi is a chewy rice cake typically made from pounded mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. These unique mochi are instead made with the local Okinawa purple sweet potato called beni imo. A staple crop in Okinawa, this nutritious sweet potato is said to be one of the reasons for the Okianwans’ longevity and results in a softer, silkier mochi.
Aragaki Guro Shoten was established in 1950 and for over 70 years has been promoting local delicacies that are part of Okinawa's traditional food culture.
Ingredients: Starch, sugar, purple potato powder, jicama
Suggested uses: To make purple potato mochi, mix one bag with 400-450ml of water in a pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the dough begins to get sticky, then turn the heat to low. Continue to stir until the dough becomes glossy and transparent and is thick enough to be scooped. Turn off the heat and put the dough into a baking tray lined with plastic wrap. Flatten and let cool (can be placed in the fridge). Once cool, turn the pan over on a cutting board to remove the mochi. Remove the plastic wrap and cut into small pieces. Sprinkle with kinako (roasted soybean powder) if desired and enjoy this chewy treat!
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
Producer: Okinawa Biento
Sugarcane is one of Okinawa’s main crops with pure sugarcane juice being slowly cooked to create a local black sugar known as kokuto, Unlike regular black sugar, which is a combination of molasses and refined white sugar, kokuto preserves its natural vitamins and minerals and is prized for its deep, liquorice flavor.
Okinawa Biento operates the only seven kokuto factories not located on the main island of Okinawa, including one onAguni Island that produces a very rare type of kokuto. Each island’s variety has unique characteristics and tastes based on the soil and sugarcane grown in that region.
KOKUTO (OKINAWA BLACK SUGAR)
This 100% pure Okinawa kokuto allows you to enjoy the true taste of local black sugar. Enjoy it as a treat on its own or use it in place of regular sweeteners in everything from desserts, sauces and teas.
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is, use to replace any sweetener, or crush and sprinkle on top of ice cream or frozen yogurt. Can also be used in cooking such as in theRafuterecipe provided.
KOKUTO JIMAMI (OKINAWA BLACK SUGAR PEANUTS)
Peanuts, known as jimami in Okinawa, are a local specialty found throughout the islands from the end of summer to the end of October. The name translates to “ground nuts” which describes how the nuts grow. Okinawa has a regional jimami tofu made from peanuts instead of the sesame found in gomadofu, part of the traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin ryori. These nostalgic kokuto jimami are a unique treat made with peanuts and kokuto to create a rustic flavor loved by locals.
Ingredients: Sugarcane, peanuts, kokuto (from Okinawa), starch syrup, molasses
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is.
OKINAWA ZENZAI (DESSERT SOUP)
There is nothing more comforting than a sweet bowl of zenzai! Zenzai is a traditional warm Japanese dessert soup made with azuki (sweet beans) and plump hot mochi (glutinous rice). Unique to Okinawa, you’ll often find zenzai served cold atop a bowl of shaved ice as a sweet summer treat. This Okinawa-style zenzai includes kokuto which is gently simmered with oshimugi (pressed barley) and kintoki-mame (kidney beans).
Hokugan celebrated its 55th anniversary this year and continues to reflect the local island philosophy of sincerity, humility, and service.
Ingredients: Sugar (domestic), kidney beans, kokuto (Okinawa black sugar), barley (domestic), salt
Suggested uses: To serve cold, store in the refrigerator and transfer to a bowl when ready to enjoy. Can also be served over shaved ice. To serve warm, place the bag in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 mins and transfer to a bowl when ready to enjoy. Can also be warmed in the microwave by emptying the contents into a microwaveable container and heating for 1½ -2 mins at 500W.
Storage: Refrigerate after opening and use as soon as possible.
FERMENTED UKON (TURMERIC) TEA
Producer: Nakasone Shokuhin
Turmeric, known as ukon in Japan, has been enjoyed for centuries in Okinawa and is revered for its health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Fermenting the turmeric helps to make these compounds more bioavailable while mellowing its taste. Autumn turmeric, named as such given its flowers bloom in autumn, has a high curcumine content, minimal bitterness and subtle sweet aftertaste when compared to regular turmeric tea.
Nakasone Shokuhin was established in 1993 as a joint venture between public and private sectors to offer local Okinawan products throughout Japan and overseas. They operate 14 “washita shops” (washita mean “us” in Okinawan dialect) that authentically reflect Okinawa in everything from its food, atmosphere, smell and warmth of the islands (so much so that people visit the stores during covid to feel as if they were able to escape to Okinawa!).
Ingredients: Fermented autumn turmeric (from Okinawa), molasses, rice bran
Suggested uses: Add one tea bag to a pot of boiling water and enjoy.