Okinawa Tourism Information:Serial/IslandBlessings,IslandFlavorsPart9Njana(Nigana)

Serial / Island Blessings, Island Flavors Part 9 Njana (Nigana)

post : 2014.07.04 14:00

Okinawa has so many edible wild plants that people say “We can eat every wild plant that goats can eat.”

Especially a wild plant that has been used as a preventive medicine for common cold since the Ryukyu Kingdom period is “Njana (Japanese name: hosobawadan / Okinawan dialect: Nigana).  Njana is rich in mineral such as calcium, potassium, etc. in addition to vitamin A and vitamin C.

It has been said that the wild grass works for prevention of common cold and reducing fever, so it has been familiar to people as a medicinal herb since the old times.

Presently it is called more frequently as “Nigana” than as “Njana.” The word “Nigana” reminds people on mainland Japan of “Nigana” of chrysanthemum family, but that is a different species.

In Okinawa, Njana is a very familiar ingredient that you can purchase it in a market or a supermarket.

Also the wild grass has been said to grow wild along the coast or on a sandy place, so you can find it near the sea or in a park.

Most importantly, the taste of “Njana” is…terribly bitter!
That’s why it is called as “Nigana (meaning bitter leaves)” in Okinawan dialect.

Children frown and won’t eat it either in a miso soup or in a stir-fried dish.  Even though I like somewhat bitter vegetables, I keep away from the vegetable.

As I had been researching and learning how I can let my children eat Njana and how to eat it, I finally found a recipe with which we can make it not so bitter!!

Today I would like to introduce you a recipe of an Okinawan home cooking “Njana-no-Usachi (Nigana-no-Shiroae)”that I finally found.
* shiroae: vegetables mixed with a tofu dressing


Ingredients: (for 4 servings)

* Njana (Nigana) 5 to 10 leaves
* 1/2 cake of Shima Dofu              
* A pinch of salt
* A tablespoonful of *dashi-jiru
      * Dashi is a simple and savory Japanese stock usually made from Kombu (kelp) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
* A tablespoonful of peanut butter
* A teaspoonful of miso


01 Rince Njana in water well, shred them into long, thin strips and put them in water more than 20 minutes.  (This process is very important to reduce its bitterness!)

02 Put drained shima dofu into an earthenware mortar while dividing them into pieces by hand.

03 Put all the other ingredients into the mortal and mix them together well.

04 When a dressing is ready, add the well squeezed out Njana into the mortal and mix them together well.

05. When it is served on a plate, it is ready to eat!

Just putting them in water more than 20 minutes makes the taste good and a little bitter, so even children are willing to eat them.

This time I used peanut butter, but for your preference, you can use sesame seed paste mixed with brown sugar, which brings you a little different flavor.

When you get used to the bitterness of the recipe, you could try to shorten the time for putting Njana in water to experience a natural “effusive bitterness” of the wild plant.

In the hot summer days, let’s increase stamina with this nice and cool, healthy dish to survive the summer heat!


Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer  Tetsumasa and Kozue Kono (monobox)