Okinawa Tourism Information:Series/IslandBlessing,IslandTastePart34Unche

Series / Island Blessing, Island Taste Part 34 Unche

post : 2017.12.13 18:00

The sunshine in Okinawa during summer is strong, and it is hard to describe in words. During summer season, not many leaf vegetables grow in Okinawa because of that, so we see vegetables that are produced in Mainland Japan at the markets or supermarkets. However, there is 1 leaf vegetable that grows in such rough environment. It is “Unche (Chinese water spinach).” Many Unches are usually piled up in the center of markets, and they are available at a reasonable price. Probably many families eat Unche during summer since not many vegetables are available during summer. It is available from May – around September, and it belongs to Convolvulaceae family. The characteristic of it is the inside of its stem is hollow, and it is sticky as Jew's mallow and Indian spinach. 

“The inside of stem is hollow? What does it mean?” 

Many people would think like that. Unche is known as “Kushinsai” in Mainland Japan, and it is called as “Unche,” “Uncheba” or “Ensai” in Mainland Okinawa. People on Miyako Island call it as “Panai,” and it is “Untsai” on Ishigaki Island. The name “Ensai” was originated from its Chinese name “Entsai,” but the origin of “Unche” is still unknown. For your information, not many people in Okinawa know what “Kushinsai” is lol 

Unche is used as an ingredient for Chinese cuisine, ethnic, and other Asian cuisine. Since it goes with oil, it is mainly cooked as stir-fry dish. I cook stir-fried Unche many times, and I cook it with “anchovy” these days. Anchovy and Unche go very well, so I used imported anchovy before. But one day, I heard about “Okinawan-produced anchovy,” so I bought it. 

And this is “Okinawa Anchovy!” It is actually“Mijun (Bluestripe herring)” which is soaked in oil. Mijun is a fish which is similar to sardine. Also, this refined package looks cute too.

Once I opened the top of jar, I smelled fresh sourness and rosemary. Mijun is more thick and elastic than sardine. Once I put it in my mouth, I noticed the freshness of vinegar and rich flavored oil go well, and spicy chili pepper and salty taste help to make overall taste well-balanced. This anchovy make my daily life special a little bit.

Let’s cut Okinawa anchovy into pieces and cook it with Unche this time.

First, stir-fry sliced garlic and chili pepper on low heat slowly, very slowly. No need to rush, and imagine that when the smell of garlic spreads throughout a pan.

After the smell of garlic spreads throughout the kitchen, add “Okinawa anchovy” and mix them on low heat.

When you think “ah, it must be good to add pasta into it,” then add 4 cm wide of sliced Unche into the pan. You need to add stem of Unche first.

After the stem gets heated, add the rest part of Unche, switch to medium heat, shake the pan and stir-fry them. You need to season them with salt only. Salty anchovy already built the base of flavor, so what you need to do is to add a little of salt.

Plate: Yoshiriki Yamada (Tobo Tsuchibito) / Cloth: Chika Miyara (Karansha)

After every ingredient gets heated, put them in a plate, and finish! 

Savory of garlic and Okinawa anchovy are perfect for Unche, and you can enjoy its savory flavor. It must be good to eat on hot sunny day while drinking beer. It contains lots of vitamin A, B1, and C, and you can also get iron and calcium from Unche. You can cook Japanese, Western, or Chinese cuisine with Unche. If you could not get Okinawa anchovy, you can use regular anchovy as well! 


Ingredients (serves 4)

*1 bunch of Unche 
*2 cloves of Garlic
*5 or 6 Okinawa anchovy
*Proper amount of Olive oil
*Proper amount of chili pepper
*Pinch of Salt

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Okinawa CLIP photo writer monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kono)