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Try the Recommended Abasaa Soup! “Seafood Restaurant Shima” in Nakadomari, Onna Village
post : 2017.09.22 18:00
“Let’s go eat the #1 Abasaa soup in Okinawa!” An Okinawan folk singer Ms. Misako Oshiro invited me one day. Since she knows many delicious foods not only in Okinawa, but also Mainland Japan, the phrase “the #1 Abasaa soup in Okinawa” gave me a huge impact. It’s been 12 years since then, and I got hooked with Abasaa soup. So I will report the readers about my recommended “Abasaa soup” this time♪
“Abasaa” means “porcupine fish” in Okinawan dialect. It belongs to the family Diodontidae, and its body is covered with sharp spines. When it gets excited, the spines stand. It might be trying hard to ramp someone, but it looks very adorable. It is mainly cooked as an ingredient of soup in Okinawa.
It is about 1 hour driving via highway from Naha City. “Seafood Restaurant Shima” in Nakadomari, Onna Village is the restaurant where Ms. Oshiro took me to 12 years ago. Ms. Takeko Shimabukuro opened this restaurant on April, 1975. Her son Kunitaka succeeded his mother, and he said “I have been helping my mother at this restaurant before I can walk and talk.”
When the restaurant was opened, Takeko used to cook fresh fishes that her brothers caught. Currently, she and her son go to 3 different fishing ports to buy fresh fishes every morning except their off days. Takeko goes to Maeganeku Fishing Port in Onna Village near the restaurant, and Kunitaka goes to Nago Fishing Port in Nago City and Ishikawa Fishing Port in Uruma City. They are good judges of fishes, and that is the key to cook good seafood dishes.
3 kinds of Abasaa are used at this restaurant. This time, “Spot-fin porcupine fish” and “Montsuki” were arrived from a port, so I was able to look at the fresh Abasaa. They were about 40cm / 15in long, and their weights were about 3kg / 6lb. They were bigger than the ones I saw at the beaches, so I was surprised. Kunitaka told me, “it depends on the types of Abasaa, but bigger one is about 10kg / 22lb.” It surprised me again.
“What is the characteristic of delicious Abasaa?” “Let’s see, something that has big liver and fat. We can figure it out by the bulge of its flank.” Kunitaka grabbed one Montsuki and showed me, “I think this one has a big liver. It has a good-looking face, and it is perfect.” It looks good, but its eyes look scary and very impressive.
“Even though it is a common food in Okinawa, I don’t see it at many restaurants.” “It is a burdensome chore to clean it. That’s why it is not served at many restaurants. A part around its mouth is hard as a rock, so we cut it off with a chopper. As for the 10kg one, we need more power and trick for it.” I guess it must be a hard work to clean Abasaa. Also, it seems very hard to peel its skin with spines. However, it takes only 1 minute for Kunitaka to peel its skin since he has lots of experiences.
I asked “Can I see the way you peel Abasaa’s skin and peeled Abasaa?” to Kunitaka. However, he answered “hmm, it is a business secret to reveal how to peel its skin. Also, the peeled Abasaa looks gross, so it is better not to take photos of it.” The way to peel its skin and the recipe are both business secrets. Kunitaka’s technique and Takeko’s hidden recipe are the real top secret.
“Our Abasaa soup contains lots of livers. By adding livers, it creates unique taste, and that is the key to our Abasaa dish.” And then, Kunitaka brought Abasaa soup to me. Mugwort are on top of the hot soup, and the orange dots are livers. I scooped up soup with a Chinese spoon, and had a sip. “Delicious!” It has a unique taste, and it cannot be tasted anywhere but here. The rich soup spread all over my body. Abasaa with bones were filled in a bowl, and Abasaa’s meat tastes simple since Abasaa and pufferfish (fugu) are related. Actually, its rich soup and meat make a good balance.
Takeko said “this is delicious too!” and brought to me “stir-fried seafood with miso.” Stir-fried fresh seafood includes the skins of Abasaa, sea cucumber, cuttlefish, octopus, strawberry conch, and commercial top shell. These are served in one plate, and this is my another favorite dish! You can taste jellylike textured Abasaa skin and other seafood all at once, and its salty-sweet flavored miso goes very well with Awamori♪ This is definitely a must-try dish at this restaurant.
“What is the most recommended dish for tourists?” I asked a question to Kunitaka and Takeko. “For tourists, right?” and they answered “it is sautéed fish in butter.”
I asked them back “what? Abasaa soup is not your recommended dish?” I like sautéed fish in butter also, but I did not expect to hear such answer from them.
They added, “of course Abasaa soup is recommended. Since it has a unique taste, most of them might not like it. Some people get hooked to it after eating it several times, so they come here all the way from Mainland Japan to eat it.” Even though they knew I was here for Abasaa soup, they recommended the different dish. That was the moment when they showed their consideration for tourists who are not used to eat Abasaa soup.
“Abasaa soup” has a unique taste but you could be hooked with its deliciousness. “Stir-fried seafood with miso” goes well with Awamori, and “sautéed fish in butter” is a recommended dish by Takeko and Kunitaka. So don’t you want to go to “Seafood Restaurant Shima” in Onna Village to try these 3 recommended dishes?
(A message to the readers of “Okinawa CLIP” from Kunitaka Shimabukuro)
“Our restaurant is simple and not too fancy. We only serve dishes that we believe they are delicious, so please come to try our served dishes!”
Seafood Restaurant Shima
Address: 890-2 Nakadomari, Onna Village
Business Hours: 11:00-21:00 (Last call: 20:30)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Mika Asaka