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Okinawan Sweets That Taste Even Better in the Cooler Weather
post : 2020.12.03 07:00
The summer’s heat has eased and the temperature in the mornings and evenings have cooled down comfortably. The summer season, when cool treats like shaved ice and ice cream are tasty and enjoyable, is coming to a close. During the cooler season, though, there are other sweets that you can enjoy. In this article, we’ll introduce wonderful Okinawan sweets that taste especially delicious during the autumn and winter months.
➀ Shuri’s Famous [No Manju], Sweet Steamed Buns with the Japanese Letter “の (No)”
First on the list is [No Manju] made by Gibo Manju, a Shuri specialty that all Okinawans and Okinawa lovers are familiar with. No Manju has been cherished by many people for over a century, and they’re not just your ordinary Manju (steamed buns with sweet bean filling).
What makes them different from other Manju is that when you order them, the shop staff will write the Japanese letter “の“ (pronounced noh). The letter is taken from the Japanese word “Noshi” which is an auspicious wrapping for gifts presented at weddings, school celebrations, births and other celebrations. This is a custom that is still carried out today. People come by the shop to pick up the No Manju in bulk for various celebrations. They also offer simple white Manju without the red letter written on them for memorial services.
When you open the package, the fresh scent of ginger lilies will delight your senses. Ginger lilies have bactericidal effects and have long been indispensable in Okinawa, and it is customary to wrap Manju buns, Mochi rice cakes, and rice before steaming, and offered at various events throughout the year. The No Manju is packed with sweet bean paste that’s not too sweet but just right. If you get a chance, enjoy it fresh while they’re still hot. The No Manju are very popular and may be sold out by midday, so stop by early if you can.
Gibo Manju Information
Address: 2-109-1 Shuri Kubagawa-cho, Naha City, Okinawa
➁ [Muchi]: Okinawan Mochi Rice Cake Wrapped in Ginger Lily Leaves
Are you familiar with Muchi (pronounced moo-chee)? The Okinawa Muchi is said to be offerings for good health and to keep bad spirits away, and are made on December 8 according to the lunar calendar (around the end of January to early February in the solar calendar), which is said to be the coldest period in Okinawa. Muchi are Mochi rice cakes wrapped and steamed in ginger lily leaves. (Unlike the Mochi rice cakes in mainland Japan, Okinawa’s Mochi is made by mixing water with Mochi rice flour, then steamed.) Some shops offer them throughout the year, but the best time to eat them is when the weather gets colder.
Generally, Muchi are flavored and colored with white sugar, brown sugar, or Beni Imo purple potatoes. The sticky Mochi rice cakes are wrapped in ginger lily leaves, tied tightly with string, then steamed for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Muchi is moist and delightfully chewy, and the simple and delicious taste with the unique scent of ginger lily has a nostalgic flavor. On the day of Muchi, they’re placed as offerings on the household altars and Kamidana altars, and they’re also hung in the rooms in the numbers that match the age of the children of the house. Muchi for the year 2016 (when the original article was posted) was on January 17 (and for 2021, it will be on January 20). At the longstanding shops where the Makishi Public Market is (currently under construction), you’ll find dozens and dozens of Muchi for sale, so if you see them, do try them.
➂ A Not-So-Commonly-Found Chocolate Specialty Shop in Okinawa
Last on our list is [Jacaranda Blue], a chocolate specialty shop found in Ginowan City. In Okinawa, where the temperature and humidity levels are high throughout the year, it’s not very common to find chocolate specialty shops. The chocolates offered at Jacaranda Blue are created by the owner and his wife. The owner of Jacaranda Blue traveled to Australia and honed his skills under M.O.F., a renowned French chocolatier recognized by the country. The chocolates offered here are wonderfully rich and tasting just one piece will enchant you.
The signature items offered at the shop are their lineup of Uchina Chocolat which are made with local Okinawan ingredients such as Ukon turmeric, Fuchiba (mugwort), Jimami (peanuts), Miyako Miso, Shima Masu (salt), and Shima Togarashi chilis. “A taste that’s new and unlike any other” is what has delighted many people’s palates and hearts and makes them come back for more. They’re chocolates have also become very popular as Okinawan souvenirs.
Normally, sugar and almond powder are added to the whipped meringue, but macaroons made from Okinawan Jimami (peanuts) are a rare item that can only be tasted here. They get many customers who pick up these macaroons together with their chocolates. They also offer traditional French pastries such as Canelé, as well as Stollen German fruit cake, so if you have a sweet tooth, we definitely recommend a visit there.
Jacaranda Blue Information
Address: 1F Maison Tomori, 1-8-7 Nagata, Ginowan City, Okinawa
That concludes our list of sweets that you’ll surely enjoy in this cooler weather in Okinawa. With the temperatures dropping, our appetites increase and everything just seems to taste better during this time of year. Perhaps it’ll still be some more weeks before Okinawa gets cold, but it’s best to gather all the delicious tips early, right?
Okinawa CLIP Editorial Department