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Relax Your Mind & Body and Boost Your Immune System with [Yuki-san’s Ginger Syrup] from Ishigaki Island
post : 2021.01.31 07:00
Situated in Tonoshiro on Ishigaki Island, an island among the Yaeyama archipelago, is Yuki-san’s ginger syrup shop, the Hawaiian Grotto. Just a walking distance from Ishigaki Port’s remote island terminal that’s normally bustling with locals and visitors, the popular shop welcomes many customers at its convenient location.
(Besides their popular ginger syrup, the shop also offers jam made with ginger and pineapples produced on Ishigaki Island and kitty snacks made with tuna caught off the island’s waters.)
I asked Yukiko Kato, the owner of Hawaiian Grotto, on how she came up with Yuki-san’s Ginger Syrup.
“I started a bar here on Ishigaki Island in 1998. Later, I relocated to a residential area and began making ginger syrup to use in the various café menu items we began to offer, like for our pancakes and original beverages. People began to tell me how much they enjoyed it and that they wanted me to share the ginger syrup with them. They’d bring little jars and bottles and I began to distribute them in small portions. That’s how it all began.”
“At the time we started to make our ginger syrup, there were only a few producers in Japan that made and sold ginger syrup. I don’t think any producers were making them like we were for our Yuki-san’s Ginger Syrup where the ingredients used were only those procured locally. From brown sugar made on Hateruma Island and ginger grown on Ishigaki Island, we use ingredients that are all grown and produced in the area for our syrups and jams.”
Hisaaki Nishiyama, the production manager, worked as a bartender in the past and utilizes his keen sense of taste to accurately balance the flavors of the ingredients. He even gives suggestions on what dishes or beverages would be best to use the syrup. Nishiyama-san earnestly attends to syrup-making every day, noting the changes in weather, temperature, and humidity that affect the outcome of the products.
Ginger syrup can be enjoyed mixed with carbonated water or hot water, and when you blend it with milk or soy milk, it has a wonderful, chai-like flavor. It’s a perfect drink to warm up on a chilly day.
(A hot beverage with soy milk and ginger syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon.)
Yuki-san’s Ginger Syrup is also recommended with herbal tea or black tea, coffee, or blend into a mug of beer to make ginger beer, and is also great to add a nice kick to your highball or mojito. Warm up your favorite red wine and add some syrup, and you can enjoy delicious hot wine, too.
Besides beverages and pancakes, I asked what other ways the syrup would be great for.
“When you add a dollop of syrup to stews or soups, it adds a lovely, subtle flavor and works as a great hidden ingredient. You can also use it when grilling meats, or blend it in as a marinade to add depth to the flavors. Also, before I go out on cold and dry days, I always take a spoonful of the syrup and keep it in my mouth for a few seconds to let it sort of sink in around my throat before I swallow it. The syrup coats my throat and protects it from stimulants, and the ginger warms my body and boosts immunity. To be honest, since I began making my ginger syrup, I haven’t been bedridden with a cold yet,” responded Kato-san with a smile.
I then asked Kato-san about what she pays attention to the most when selecting ingredients.
“The brown sugar really affects the taste, and after tasting various types, I found that brown sugar made in Hateruma works best. The clincher is the depth of flavor. The ginger, I use those made here on Ishigaki Island. Because the soil contains little moisture, the ginger is small but the taste is really concentrated with a good balance of spiciness, and so they’re perfect to make syrup. The delicious taste of the syrup is also really connected to the location of the Yaeyamas and Okinawa overall. The climate can be very severe at times, with typhoons and such. And so, the foods that grow in this area have that powerfulness from being able to overcome such natural conditions.
In Okinawa, there’s a wise, ancient way of thinking that has been passed down the generations. And that is Nuchi Gusui (medicine for life), and Ishoku Dogen (an idea that medicine and food are of the same origin, and that a balanced diet prevents and cures sickness). I want to always remember the wisdom of the forefathers of Okinawa, where they maintained their good health even with the high temperatures and severe weather. I hope to bring that wisdom to the foods that I make.”
Yuki-san’s Ginger Syrup is made with great care and with ingredients that are safe and delicious so that you can enjoy it with peace of mind. How about boosting your energy with her syrup to get through this chilly season?
(The illustrations on the boxes for online shipments and the cards inside them are drawn by Kato-san.)
[Hawaiian grotto], Yuki-san’s ginger Syrup Shop
Address: 74 Tonoshiro, Ishigaki City, Okinawa (Across from the Yaeyama Post Office to the east)
Hours: Open from 10:00 to 20:00 & Café Hours from 12:00 to 18:00 (takeout available)
Parking Not Available
Shop and Online Shop Information:
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Akiko Mizuno