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Blessings & Tastes of the Island, Part 32; Kachu-Yu
post : 2019.10.30 06:00
An interesting and little known fact is that Okinawa is famous for Katsuo, or bonito tuna.
Bonito are caught off the coast of Motobu Town on the main Okinawa Island and Miyako and Irabu Islands, and all through the Yaeyama Islands.
For a while, Okinawa had the largest catch of bonito in all of Japan, but is declining in the recent years due to the lack of younger generations of fishermen to carry on the industry.
But…there are other things regarding the bonito that Okinawa still boasts as being the number one in the country.
Okinawa is known for the highest annual consumption of Katsuo Bushi or dried bonito shavings in Japan!!
Katsuo Bushi is used in Champuru stir-fries, and many handfuls are used to make the broth for Okinawa Soba and Okinawa Oden!
If you get a chance, take a look at the shelves in the Katsuo Bushi section at a local supermarket because you’ll be surprised at the wide selection!!
The shelves are packed with large bags of Katsuo Bushi, and not the small packages that many families in other parts of Japan are more familiar with. The variety includes Hana Katsuo, or the very thin shavings, as well as the thicker shavings, and they also have ones that have been deveined.
Using the Katsuo Bushi, the local Okinawan families enjoy the highly nutritious Kachu-Yu. This is a simple soup made with Katsuo Bushi shavings and has been a popular dish for generations.
In the Okinawan language, Kachu means Katsuo, and Yu simply means hot water.
The soup is very simple, made basically by pouring hot water in a bowl with Katsuo Bushi. You can say that this is an instant Okinawan dish.
However, it’s just another instant soup.
Katsuo Bushi contains a chain of amino acids called peptides, which aides in recovery from fatigue, and heightens concentration and thinking power.
Katsuo Bushi is also rich in vitamins and minerals, and also has high antioxidant effects. Through consumption, you can expect positive effects for growing children, and in antiaging.
Kachu-Yu is a popular soup among the local Okinawan families, often made when someone is unwell or has no appetite.
For this article, I ask a few local Uchinanchu or Okinawans for their recipes.
Small dishes by Yoshiriki Yamada
Preferences between the thinner Hana Katsuo and thicker shavings differ by family, but the basic ingredient is Katsuo and Miso.
Small Kobachi dish (left) by Ryoko Arakaki & Pink bowl by Nana Akimoto
Simply add boiled water.
Pink bowl & teapot by Nana Akimoto
The next step is a little different according each household.
A local Naha resident, whom we’ll call N-san, combines the following.
Small dish (left) by Tatsuya Morinaga & Bowl by Yoshiriki Yamada
Katsuo Bushi, Miso, and Umeboshi or pickled sour plum. N-san’s mother worked at Matsumoto Shoten, a dried foods specialty shop by the Makishi Market, and so this was a regular dish when N-san was a child, and N-san still makes it at least once a month.
Adding some chopped green onions sounds great.
The recipe from the K family, who runs a pig farm, is a little more luxurious.
Hot water is poured into a bowl of Katsuo Bushi, Miso is mixed in, and then the soup is topped with an egg.
Bowl by Tatsuya Morinaga & Luncheon mat by Chika Miyara
Raw egg adds an extra boost of nutrition. The grandmother of the family said this was a luxury dish that she could only enjoy when she was sick in bed with a cold.
Bowl by Tatsuya Morinaga & Luncheon mat by Chika Miyara
Kachu-Yu is made with plenty of Katsuo shavings, which allows its flavors to seep throughout the soup, giving it a highly aromatic and enjoyable taste. Apparently, it’s very common for people to eat the whole bowl of the Katsuo Bushi shavings after it softens nicely in the hot water.
When I actually tried it, the shavings were quite filling and satisfying.
A shopkeeper whose parents are originally from Miyako Island, says their recipe is even simpler, replacing the Miso with salt. She says she went to her parents’ house after giving birth and her mother made it for her often, saying the soup was very nutritious and good for the body after giving birth.
T-san, a mother of two from Chatan Town, says her style is to make the Katsuo Bushi broth from cold water over heat, and not by adding boiling water, and then she mixes in the Miso. She shared her great ideas, saying she makes a big pot-full whenever she or a family member has a cold or lacks appetite, so they can have Kachu-Yu whenever they want.
An Itoman City local, who we’ll call H-san, says they add thin Somen noodles or Mozuku seaweed on top, so their Kachu-Yu is even more filling and satisfying.
Lastly, K-san, a young designer in their 20s, introduced me to a surprising style of Kachu-Yu.
This Kachu-Yu shows how Okinawa too, is advancing with the times and its food culture is diversifying.
Okinawa’s miso soup, Kachu-Yu
Although Kachu-Yu isn’t often served or made at K-san’s home, he/she introduced this great product that’s available at supermarkets and drug stores within Okinawa.
Although already quite simple and “instant” to make, there’s actually a product that makes this dish even easier and more instant!
This is a great example of something that’s truly Okinawan.
This would be a great little present for a colleague or a friend.
So that was our introduction of Kachu-Yu made by different families. Which was your favorite?
It was interesting to learn that each family had their own styles and varying ingredients for their Kachu-Yu.
Each one that I tried made me feel warm inside, thinking, “So this is the taste of their home.”
This is a simple recipe for you to make at home and to enjoy a simple, home-cooking cherished by Okinawan families.
Add your favorite ingredients and make your own recipe and enjoy!
Hashi-Oki chopstick rest by Tatsuya Morinaga, Bowl by Yoshiriki Yamada & Luncheon mat by Chika Miyara
[Inquiries for Dishes Introduced in the Photos]
Address: 1-9-24 Ishikawa Akebono, Uruma City, Okinawa
Hours: 11:00 to 16:00
Closed: Wednesdays & Sundays
Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)