NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (June 2021) - Okinawa (沖縄) : Tastes from the Tropics
KACCHU SOUP (KATSUO MISO SOUP)
Producer: Hamaguchi Suisan
Region: Irabu Island
Comforting katsuo soup, known locally as kacchu-yu, is the soul food of Miyako Island. It has long been believed that drinking this soup can boost your immune system when feeling sick or help improve your appetite.
The bonito flakes are from Irabu Island, the second largest island among the Miyako Islands which is connected to Miyako Island by a 3,540 meter bridge completed in January 2015. The Sarahama Fishing Port on Irabu Island produces 80% of the bonito caught in Okinawa, with the Irabu Bonito Fleet having fished for bonito in the area for over 100 years. For this soup, the bonito are ground into a very fine powder and mixed with Miyako miso made from 100% domestic soybeans produced in Miyakojima.
Ingredients: Miyako miso (soybeans (domestic, non-GMO), malted rice (wheat), sea salt, awamori (Okinawa alcohol)), dried bonito flakes
Suggested uses: Squeeze ~20g (less than 1½ tbsp) into a bowl, add 180ml of boiling water, stir and enjoy. Can be made like the locals do by adding a raw egg before pouring the boiling water (please make sure it’s safe to eat raw eggs in your area). Can also be used as a dip for raw vegetables or in stir fries.
Producer: Ocean Company
Region: Ishigaki Island
Chanpuru is one of Okinawa’s most recognizable dishes. This stir fry dish, which translates to "something mixed", represents the mixture of ingredients and cultures found in Okinawa (Japanese, Chinese and South East Asian). It’s typically made with tofu, vegetables, meat or fish, goya (bitter melon), egg, bean sprouts and... Spam (that's right, this canned luncheon meat was introduced by the US navy and appears in many local Okinawan dishes).
Ocean Company’s chanpuru seasoning combines different local ingredients sourced from remote tropical islands located in the southwesternmost region of Okinawa, closer to Taiwan than to mainland Japan. The salt is from the seas of Nagura Bay, a nature reserve that draws its nutrients from rain water flowing from the foot of Mt Omoto via the Nagura River. It means "a place where young fish gather" in the local dialect, and is found on Ishigaki Island. The kokuto (brown sugar) is from Hateruma Island, the southernmost inhabited island of Japan which is famous for its kokuto, while the bonito powder is from Yonaguni Island, the westernmost inhabited island of Japan.
Ingredients: Salt (from Ishigaki Island), kokuto (brown sugar from Hateruma Island), bonito powder (Yonaguni Island), yeast extract, kelp powder, shiitake mushroom
Suggested uses: Use to make Fu Chanpuru using the recipe provided or as a seasoning for fried rice, grilled vegetables, meat, fish or chicken, potatoes, soup or carpaccio.
Region: Okinawa Main Island
Like the vegan protein seitan, fu (wheat gluten) is a chewy substance similar to dried bread and is what remains after the starch has been removed from wheat. With little taste on its own, it absorbs the flavors of the sauces and seasonings it's paired with and has become a popular part of a macrobiotic diet. It’s a common ingredient in many Japanese dishes, with each region having its own variety. Okinawan fu boasts more than double the amount of gluten compared to other fu, thanks to the thorough separation of starch and gluten. The high concentration of gluten makes Okinawa fu chewier and helps it retain its shape in water.
Our producer, Fukuju, produces their fu using traditional techniques from Okinawa. First, flour is carefully washed to separate the starch and gluten. The extracted gluten is then re-combined with a small amount of flour, making the fu extra chewy and crispy. The dough is then wrapped around a rotating pipe to ensure an even texture - a skill that relies on the years of intuition and experience of the craftspeople at Fukuju. This step is so painstaking that it cannot be mechanized and must be done by hand. The dough is then flattened and slowly baked to a golden brown color. Fukuju does not let any part of their ingredients go to waste. The extracted starch is used to produce black incense sticks, which are used at many Okinawan festivals, while the water from the gluten extraction is purified and mindfully returned to nature.
Ingredients: Gluten (wheat protein, from Japan), wheat flour, vegetable oil (includes wheat and soybeans)
Suggested uses: Soak the fu in warm water to reconstitute and squeeze to remove excess water. Use in the Fu Chanpuru recipe provided, or add to miso soup, curry, stir fries, hot pots, or noodle dishes, You can also soak it in a marinade, coat with flour or starch, then fry until it’s crispy and golden brown on the outside and chewy on the inside.
NAMA-MISO TUNA CHILI OIL
Producer: Yonaguni Suisan Kako
Region: Yonaguni Island
This nama-miso tuna chili oil combines locally-sourced bonito (tuna) flakes with umami-rich nama-miso (miso that has not been heat-treated to stop the fermentation process - a living food!) and a variety of island spices, sugar and salt to create a delectable chili oil full of Okinawan flavor. The bonito are sourced from the Kubura Fishing Port with a quality drawn from the Kuroshio Current - named after the deep blue color of its waters. Each bonito is carefully dried one by one to produce the richest flavor. The natural sea salt comes from the coral seas of Ishigaki Island, while the kokuto (brown sugar) is from Hateruma island and is known for being rich in minerals with a deep licorice flavor. Our producer, Yonaguni Suisan Kako, invites you to enjoy the exquisite harmony of Okinawa’s churuami (the beautiful graceful ocean) and all the island’s blessings.
Ingredients: Sesame oil, miso (non GMO-soybean, rice, salt, barley, wheat), bonito flakes, pepper, kokuto (brown sugar from Hateruma island), garlic flakes, salt (from Ishigaki island)
Suggested uses: Use as a sauce for gyoza, ramen, cold noodles, fried rice, stir fries and pasta. Can also be used as a spread on bread or as a topping for rice or tofu.
AUTHENTIC “JIGAMA” KOKUTO (BROWN SUGAR)
Producer: Nakasone Kokuto
Region: Okinawa Main Island
Sugarcane makes up one-third of the farmland in Okinawa and its juice is slowly boiled to make sweet Okinawan brown sugar known as kokuto. Kokuto has a rich licorice flavor and is considered a healthier alternative to regular sugar given its high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamin B.
Satoshi Nakasone, the founder of Nakasone Kokuto, quit his company job to make kokuto when he was 32 years old after an ojii (the affectionate name for grandfather or older man) gave him authentic kokuto to taste. Nakasone Kokuto lovingly makes their kokuto using old-fashioned manufacturing methods developed early in the 17th century. The sugarcane is harvested when the sugar content is at its peak and the juice is squeezed within a day or two to preserve its freshness. Only the juice from the first squeeze (known as ichiban shibori) is used as the first press is considered the purest. Skilled craftsmen then boil the juice for over five hours while constantly monitoring the heat and skimming away impurities to remove any bitterness, and to maintain the natural sweetness and minerals. The process results in an exceptionally pure kokuto with a strong, robust flavor and deep brown color.
Ingredients: Kokuto (brown sugar)
Suggested uses: Enjoy as is, use to replace any sweetener, or crush and sprinkle on top of ice cream or frozen yogurt.
RYUKYU FLAVORED OKINAWA TEA BLEND
Region: Okinawa Main Island
Okinawa encompasses two thirds of what was formerly known as the Ryukyu Islands. The Ryukyu Kingdom was ruled as a tributary state of China under the Ming dynasty beginning in the 15th century before becoming a vassal state of Japan after the Invasion of Ryukyu in 1609. It was later dissolved to form Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. Being a central part of the trade network in the region, its culture and food are heavily influenced by East and Southeast Asia.
This Okinawan tea is reminiscent of the diverse flavors of the Ryukyu Kingdom, with a healthy yet flavorful blend of 22 ingredients unique to Okinawa, including wild grasses and reishi mushrooms. The skillful blend ensures that no single ingredient overpowers another, resulting in a taste that’s slightly toasted with a touch of natural sweetness. Just one sip of this relaxing tea will sweep you away to the tropical islands of Okinawa!
Ingredients: Barley tea, sicklepod tea, hatomugi (Job’s tears), oolong stem tea, wolfberry, chameleon plant tea, hojicha (roasted green tea), cinnamon bark, jasmine tea, gymnema sylvestre, autumn turmeric, kumisukuchin, reishi mushroom, safflower, guava leaf, loquat leaf, persimmon leaf, ginseng, mugwort, plantain, Ryukyu mugwort, candelabra aloe
Suggested uses: Steep 1 tea bag in 150-200ml of hot water, depending on your preferred strength.