Friday, 12 December 2014

Food, Travelling & Living: Food And Fun Of Okinawa -- Day 1

Image from Locky's English Playground
Went to Okinawa for 5 days 4 nights with my wife to attend her best friend's wedding. As inexperienced self-paying guests, we relied much on the experienced bride and groom.

L-shaped gear stick, haven't seen it on any cars other than minivans in Hong Kong
Image from Locky's English Playground
Following a group of 17 people, we opted for a rental car tour by hiring 4 cars. Turns out, we got the oldest car with the crappiest GPS that only had Japanese language, read un-updated phone numbers and rerouted even when you were just 10 metres away from your destination. Fujiren Rental is definitely a candidate on my blacklist.

Huge whale shark toys
Image from Locky's English Playground
Anyway, this is not a post for complaints, so let's return to the food and fun. We went to this souvenir shop on Kokusai Dori (literally "International Road") and I was most impressed with the amount of whale shark souvenirs being sold there. Surely you would think they are very shark conservation conscious, but keeping whale sharks in captivity in the first place is a very wrong thing to do.

Many souvenir shops on
Image from Locky's English Playground
Souvenirs shops are everywhere along the road, so I am betting this must be the last place people go before they head back to the airport, but we went there on day 1.

Ice cream with salts of different flavours
Image from Locky's English Playground
For me, ice cream is the most impressive thing in Okinawa. Extremely milky, and it comes with salts of different flavours, most famous is their sea salt and purple sweet potato. Lick the ice cream and try another salt flavour, quite a fun thing to do.

Tree ring cake
Image from Locky's English Playground
We walked into a shop that sells tree ring cakes, tried several types but the sweetness is a tad too much for our liking.

Image from Locky's English Playground
Takoyaki was excellent! Fresh, hot and oh that sauce!!!

Mini-pineappel for sale as gifts
Image from Locky's English Playground
Little new-born pineapples for sale at 100 Yen, another great buy as souvenirs.

Exhibition of the history of Makishi kōsetsu shijō
Image from Locky's English Playground
Ceci and I wandered into Makishi kōsetsu shijō (牧志公設市場), a market established since the end of WWII. There on the ground floor, there are fresh seafood, meat loafs for sale and Okinawa's unique seasoning for sale. On the first floor, there was a possibly permanent exhibition of photos talking about the history of this marker.

Ganjuu Dou, a very nice open restaurant
Image from Locky's English Playground
We went to Ganjuu Dou (がんじゅう堂) on the same floor, a very homely-looking restaurant with several families dining.

Famous visitors?
Image from Locky's English Playground
On the wall there are a number of signatures supposedly written mostly by famous baseball players.

Pickled ginger, pepper powder and awamori
Image from Locky's English Playground
Below the wall was our table, I tried the famous awamori without knowing what it is, then after a teaspoon of it, I felt the burn of alcohol moving both up and downwards of my digestive track.

Triple pork Okinawa noodles
Image from Locky's English Playground
The best of noodles of the entire trip, was this bowl of fat pork belly, pork ribs and pork knuckle Okinawa noodles, and the pork ribs were the best of the best. My wife loved it and could not find anything close to this in the next five days. Okinawa noodles are the harder, chewier type, my kind of texture. I love the soup in particular, the richest taste of dried bonito (aragatsuo, 荒節) I have ever had. Thinking about it now, I should go and get some from the supermarket.

Ishigaki Beef
Image from Locky's English Playground
Going to Okinawa and not try their renowned Ishigaki Beef would be a huge regret to bring home. The beef easily costs 5000 yen a piece, but here, it only costs 2930 with set!

Close up of the beef
Image from Locky's English Playground
And lucky that I tried it, because for the next few days, I could no longer find anything as great the price and quality as this. The beef is so rich in taste, so tender! It is not the kind you expect to the really fatty, but lean meat in just the right amount of bite. If I had brought enough cash, I would have bought a whole chunk back to Hong Kong.

Car park instructions
Image from Locky's English Playground
Not only is the beef amazing, the automated car parking system too!

How the car is parked electronically
Image from Locky's English Playground
It is really interesting to see how the system works. Turns out, when one drives a car into the parking lot, there are about 1 minute or so before the lever is raised to lock the bottom of the car, stopping the wheel. It is not like you cannot drive it over the lever, but your car will suffer more damage than paying for the parking fee. Parking fee depends on the car parks themselves, but the ones I parked over night, cost 1100-1200 yen when I picked the car up the next day. Not too bad!

Hotel!!! Finally!
Image from Locky's English Playground

We reached the Hotel Monterey Okinawa Resort & Spa just before midnight. The room and the hotel were excellent, but my wife and I were too tired to pay too much attention in photo-taking.

Takoyaki -- (n)[U] a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan.
Awamori -- (n)[U] an alcoholic beverage indigenous to and unique to Okinawa, Japan. It is made from long grain indica rice, and is not a direct product of brewing (like sake) but of distillation (like shōchū). All Awamori made today is from Thai rice, the local production not being sufficient enough to meet domestic demands.
bonito -- (n)[C] a family it shares with the mackerel, tuna and Spanish mackerel tribes, and also the butterfly kingfish.


Takoyaki @Wikipedia

Awamori +Wikipedia 

Bonito +Wikipedia 

Katsuobushi +Wikipedia 

Ishigaki Beef @ Bunny Eats

Hotel Monterey Okinawa Resort & Spa +agoda