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Okinawa Soba at [Sugiji (Naha City)] is a Taste Recommended for Lovers of Traditional Performing Arts
post : 2020.11.09 07:00
In a quiet residential area not far from Kokusai Street in Naha is a shop that offers Okinawa Soba (noodles in steaming hot broth) prepared with extra care and attention. The name of this shop is “Sugiji” (pronounced soo-ghee-jee).
One of the joys in Okinawa Soba is enjoying the different tastes at varying shops, created from each of their particular choices of ingredients and preparation. Okinawa has countless Okinawa Soba specialty shop, and the local Uchinanchu (Okinawan people) usually have two or three favorite shops that they frequent. What makes the Okinawa Soba offered at Sugiji so special is the Soba noodles made by the owner, Hidetaka Sakihama, and the Konbu seaweed broth, a type of broth which is not very common in Okinawa.
Before he opened up his Soba shop, Sakihama-san paid frequent visits to the workshop in a local milling company to pursue a method of noodle-making that he wholeheartedly could be proud of to serve at his establishment. As a result, he came up with a type of flat noodles made with a blend of three different types of flour. His noodles are firm and chewy, but easy to eat, with a refined shine and a delightfully slippery texture. The subtle scent of wheat, and a gentle sweetness is delivered to the palate with each bite. After he makes the dough, he leaves it to mature for at least three days. This creates a unique world of taste unlike any other.
The most recommended item on their menu is the Sugiji Soba. The clear, light soup goes amazingly well with the flat noodles. The transparent broth is made with pork shoulder meat, belly, and Konbu broth as its base. Like other similar dishes, the harmony between the soup and noodles in Okinawa Soba is also crucial. “Just like sipping tea after a meal, I hope to see my customers drink the soup to the last drop once they finish eating the noodles. That would make me very happy,” says Sakihama-san, and shares that this was his concept when coming up with the recipe for his soup.
“At first, the soup was overshadowed by the strong presence of the noodles. I could’ve gone with making the soup stronger in taste with salt or soy sauce, but I decided not to do that. Instead, I wanted to balance it out by the Umami flavors of the meat that’s added on top.” He says the broth has a number of “not-so-common ingredients” that quietly enhances the highly aromatic soup, and the roasted meat toppings, which are seasoned with sugar, soy sauce and Mirin rice wine, give a nice accent to the dish. The boldness of the noodles and the gentle yet delightful flavor of the soup is an orchestra of delightful tastes.
The world of delicious tastes created by Sakihama-san doesn’t stop with Okinawa Soba. I highly recommend that you try his Maguro-no Nakaochi Don (rice bowl with the rich tuna meat by the bones) and Fu Jushi (Okinawan seasoned rice with wheat gluten).
Shown above is their tuna bowl. Sakihama-san frequently visited a fish shop in the Tomari Iyumachi, a fisherman’s market located in Naha City, until he was able to build a good relationship with them and they agreed to sell him the freshest Nakaochi part of the tuna that he uses amply in the dish. The sauce is made with a blend of soy sauce as its base, and the combination with the sesame seeds, leeks, and seaweed really brings out the wonderful flavor of the tuna.
Now, for the Fu Jushi. Fu is a familiar ingredient in Okinawa, usually used in a stir-fry dish called Fu Champuru, and is one of Sakihama-san’s favorite dishes to accompany alcoholic beverages. He decided to combine the Fu with Jushi, an Okinawan rice dish that’s just as popular and well-known, and he discovered that they went great together. His Fu Jushi is cooked in Konbu seaweed broth, with bonito flakes as his hidden ingredient. I tried it and the sophisticated taste had me hooked right away.
You can enjoy the Donburi bowl dish as a set which includes Okinawa Soba, too. In the set are Dashimaki Tamago omelet, Goya Champuru (stir-fried bitter melon), Mozuku-su (mozuku seaweed in vinegar), Oshinko (pickled radish), and other seasonal side dishes. You’ll see and taste that each dish is prepared with lots of care and time.
The shop is situated in what was once a private home, and has tatami mat rooms that are welcoming and full of warmth, and gives you the relaxed, comfortable feeling like you’re visiting a relatives’ house.
After studying traditional performing arts at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, Sakihama-san was trained for three years in the performer development program at the National Theatre Okinawa, and is also an instructor of Sanshin, Okinawa’s three-stringed instrument. If you’re lucky you may be in for a treat, because at times, he gives live Sanshin performances at his shop. “Traditional performing arts of Okinawa, like the Kumiodori, developed with influences from other cultures through trade with Japan and China. I feel that the world of taste is the same. In order to inherit and pass on traditions, I think it’s also necessary to evolve…” The world of sound, and the world of taste. Sakihama-san lives in both of these worlds, and I look forward to witnessing the evolution that he’ll lead.
Address: 1F Oshiro Apartments, 1-8-15 Tomari, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 11:00 to 17:00 (From 11:30 on weekends and holidays) *Closed When Sold Out
Closed: Tuesdays & 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the Month (also with irregular closing days)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda