Okinawa Tourism Information:Series/IslandBlessing,IslandTastePart29Shibiran

Series / Island Blessing, Island Taste Part 29 Shibiran

post : 2015.12.17 19:00

“Shibiran (Scientific name: Talinum fruticosum)” is a plant of Portulacaceae and bears vivid reddish purple or pink, small flowers.  The leaf vegetable is commonly found in markets in Okinawa.  

It is native to South America, but it is called by different names including “African Spinich,” ”Brazilian Spinich,” “Shibiransaa,” etc.  In Okinawa, it is known as “Shibiran.”  Since the olden times, as an “edible herbal plant,” local people call it “ganjuunaa (“Vegetable for Being Fine.”) as well.

“Shibiran” is perfect for Okinawan soil, so you can often find “Shibiran” growing wild on the roadside or a vacant lot.  As it grows wild near the ocean, the vegetable is hard to grow in the inland area of Honshu (the main island of Japan). 

If you put it in a flower vase, you can keep it fresh longer and enjoy it as an ornamental plant.  My daughter also goes out for picking flowers often, and every time she picks “Shibiran,” she tells me “This is an edible flower, right?”  After putting in water, when you see it started rooting, you can cultivate it easily in planters.

Characteristically it becomes a little slimy like Jew's mallow when heated.  It has little astringent taste and crunchy texture, so it is used for ohitashi*1 or itamemono.  It is rich in vitamins, mineral and fiber as well as has strong antioxidant effect.  “Shibiran” is one of the vegetables you would like to take in for everyday diet. 

*1 ohitashi: a method of infusing lightly cooked vegetables with seasoned dashi  
*2 itamemono: dishes prepared by sautéing vegetables, seafood or meat, usually in a little oil, while stirring and then seasoning

Just like spinach and tsurumurasaki (Indian spinach), it can be cooked in any genre.  When you use small pretty flowers for salad as edible flower, the salad will be a colorful dish. 

Today I would like to introduce a home cooking recipe “Usachi” using “Shibiran” and shima dofu (island tofu).  “Usachi” means general aemono*3 in an Okinawan dialect.  The word is used for dishes dressed with vinegar, mushed tofu or peanut.  This time we use shima dofu and white-sesame seed paste with “Shibiran” to prepare “Usachi.”

*3 aemono: chopped fish, shellfish or vegetables, dressed with (miso or other) sauce

【Usachi of Shibiran and Shimadofu】


A bundle of Shibiran
1/2 block of Shimadofu
A pinch of Salt

Dressing Sauce:
1 tablespoon White sesame seeds paste
2 tablespoons Dashijiru (fish stock)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Miso (Soy Bean Paste)
1 teaspoon Tensaitou (or Sugar)


1. Cook spinach in large pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt until just wilted and bright green.
2. Cool spinach in bowl of ice water.
3. Drain.  Squeeze spinach to remove excess liquid.  Cut it into a bite size.

4. Stir all the ingredients for dressing sauce well with a muddler or saibashi (large chopsticks for cooking).
5. Allow kitchen paper, etc, to absorb liquid from shimadofu.  Put it into a bowl to break it into very small crumble like mash with hand.
6. Mix 5. With the dressing sauce and kneed the mixture with your hands and knuckles well to combine.    

7. Lastly squeeze “Shibiran” to remove excess liquid again and put it into 6.  When the whole mixture gets the dressing equally, divide it among bowls.  It is ready to eat! 

Usachi with dressing of tofu, dashijiru, salt and soy sauce offers you a simple, natural flavor of the ingredient.  Instead of white sesame seed paste, you can use peanut paste and crushed peanut.  It is my recommendation for you to enjoy a crunching texture.

Please try a taste of Okinawan home, Usachi in different ways at your home!

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