Okinawa Tourism Information:Serial/IslandBlessings,IslandFlavorsPart10Goya

Serial / Island Blessings, Island Flavors Part 10 Goya

post : 2014.07.11 21:00

“When you hear the sound of the gong of haarii (dragon boat race held on May 4th of the lunar calendar), the rainy season will end.”
I remember what the local people told me shortly after I moved to Okinawa.
Summer is right around the corner in Okinawa.
As you built up your body that can stand the dazzling sunshine, you might want to live comfortably with the severe summer heat.

This episode celebrates the tenth of the series, “Serial / Island Blessings, Island Flavors.”
This time I would like to introduce you the king of the Okinawan vegetables, “goya (bitter gourd).”

Nowadays goya has become familiar to the nation as an ingredient you can buy everywhere in Japan.
Goya is a bright green, bumpy vegetable.  If I show it to children, they might shout “No!  It tastes bitter!” and run away.

It has been said that cooling yourself off beneath the goya trellis is good for relief from summer heat fatigue since a long time ago.  So still now you can see many families growing goya often.  Also on mainland Japan, it is not unusual to see people growing goya at a veranda in the tough summer heat to cool down under “the goya curtain.”

In Okinawa, goya has been used as a medicinal herb to relieve summer lethargy and maintain functions of your stomach and intestines.  According to a Chinese medicinal encyclopedia “Compendium of Materia Medica,” goya is introduced as a cure-all medicinal herb as written here “reduces a fever, relieves your fatigue, remove your stress, and improve uncorrected vision.”  Based on the idea of “Taberumono ga nuchigusui (What you eat is medicine for life.)” in Okinawa and China, when I check out the property of an ingredient, I am convinced by the explanation every time.

Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, but only little of which in goya is lost when heated.  You can use goya for sunomono (vinegared dish) or simple aemono (dressed dishes) like one dressed with okaka shoyu (soy sauce and dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna).  As goya is great with oil, you can also use it for stir-fry dishes and tempura. This Okinawan vegetable is excellent in that you can cook it as you want it.  For long hot summer days, you can eat goya every day.

This time, I would like to introduce you “Goya Champuru,” which you can cook easily at home. I chose an excellent restaurant for enjoying the best goya champuru as well as I would like to introduce you the chef’s secret cooking technique of how to cook it deliciously.

 “Sakae Ryoriten” in Ishikawa, Urima City is a seasonal Okinawan cuisine restaurant, where they mainly use locally-produced ingredients.

The signs at the entrance, which say “Organic Vegetables,” “Yanbaru Wagyu,” “Benibuta Aguu (Okinawan brand-named pork),” can tell the chef’s commitment to quality ingredients. 

When asked by my friends or family members who are coming to Okinawa “Which restaurant do you recommend?,” I would recommend this shop right away without hesitation.

I had been secretly looking forward to having an interview with “Sakae Ryoriten” some day.
And finally I could welcome the day!

 “Every family has their own flavored champuru.  I cook it with a very simple flavor and no eggs,” said the owner chef, Mr. Odo.

That’s true.  “Goya champuru” is popular so that you can cook it casually at home or eat it in a diner; however, why “Sakae”-san’s “Goya Champuru” is unforgettable, I was wondering when I entered the kitchen.

Just like everybody does, he put bite-sized pieces of tofu in a large skillet to stir-fry its both sides well and added butabaraniku (port back ribs).  Added quickly-blanched goya and onion to shake the skillet forward and backward.
And for seasoning as I saw him, he used katsuodashijiru (a kind of Japanese soup stock made from bonito flakes), salt, soy sauce, and sugar.
A different seasoning he used is shiokouji (salt rice malt).

“Hmmm, that’s looks delicious, too.”
But there must be something that makes a big difference….and I kept watching him.


There I found it!
At the end, he took a handful of tofu and added it in the skillet by crumbling it.

And again shaked the skillet wildly so that flavors of all the ingredients would blend into with each other.  He dished out the food artfully.


 “Just stir-frying all the ingredients does not really bring them together.  To give a special touch, crumble a small amount of tofu into pieces.  As the fine pieces of tofu absorb the flavor, you can savor the totally-blended flavor through the tofu either when you eat goya or when you eat pork.

I was originally anxious to know his secret recipe, but as I listened to Mr. Odo talking bashfully, I noticed what I had wanted to tell you was the finishing magic “harmony.”

It is true. When I try one bite, bonito flavor, other seasonings, oil flavor spread in a good balance in the mouth.  None of the seasonings stands out, or should I say, they connect each good part to each other. 

As I eat it, I feel chillaxed, getting an unaccountable impression like “Ah, these ingredients really go well with each other.”

Excellent ingredients, excellent seasonings, excellent chef, and excellent ware!

It is not always true that if we have all of the above excellences, we can have delicious cuisine or memorable work.
Only when we give “consideration” to connect everything to each other, we can finally meet “delicacy.”  That’s what Sakae-san’s “Goya Champuru” told me.

Please try the delicacy once!

Again next episode, I would like to introduce a delicious summer staple vegetable dish from “Sakae Ryoriten.”
Please look forward to it!

Sakae Ryoriten

Address: 1-27-35, Ishikawa, Uruma City
TEL: 098-964-7733
Hours: 17:00 to 24:00
Closed on Tuesdays

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer  monobox (Tetsumasa and Kozue Kono)