Okinawan Cuisine: Typical Food From the Region

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Okinawa is famous for its distinctive and unique food ingredients and culture.

Okinawa is known for a long history as a country, “Ryukyu Kingdom”, and also a prefecture with the great influence of America. This makes Okinawan culture unique.

It is the most Southern prefecture in Japan as well, so it has vast ingredients that are not able to be tried in other prefectures.

Okinawa is famous for its unique snacks, sweets, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and agu pork.

This prefecture is known as a blue zone for its healthy diet and happy lifestyle. We recommend you go to Okinawan restaurants or markets if you want to discover a little more.

Here are some of the restaurants and markets.

  1. Kokusai Street Food Village(国際通り屋台村)
  2. Sakaemachi Arcade(栄町市場)
  3. Makishi Public Market(第一牧志公設市場)

Many famous Okinawa foods to explore!

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What food is Okinawa famous for?

Okinawa is most famous for its unique food culture, for eating all parts of pork, the environment with seas, and food that is unique to its warm and sunny weather.

Okinawa was a country called the “Ryukyu Kingdom”, which lasted about 450 years until the Meiji era. In this period, Okinawa had royal courts and developed its unique snacks and sweets, and also farmed Agu pork to serve China or Satsuma Domain (current Kagoshima prefecture).

They also get some influence from Chinese food saying, “Food is Medicine”, thus the food is well-balanced.

In addition to that, Okinawans have invented their cuisine to survive this rigorous, hot environment. Okinawa is hard to harvest typical food ingredients in Japan, such as pear, lettuce, or corn.

On the other hand, they have managed to catch, grow, and harvest seafood, vegetables, or fruits that are suitable to their tropical climate.

Okinawa was also governed by the U.S. for 27 years after World War II. This makes Okinawa one of the most Americanized prefectures in Japan.

Here are some foods that are unique in Okinawa.

  1. Snacks
  2. Sweets
  3. Seafood
  4. Fruits
  5. Agu pork

What are famous Okinawan snacks?

Okinawa snack is unique in its way. It is influenced by both Ryukyu and the U.S.

These are the 5 savory Okinawan snacks that Japanese people or Okinawan people usually eat.

  1. Hirayachi(ヒラヤーチー)
  2. Pork-egg Onigiri(ポーク卵おにぎり)
  3. Mozuku Tempura(もずく天ぷら)
  4. Onisasa(オニササ)
  5. Mimigar Jerky(ミミガージャーキー)

1. Hirayachi(ヒラヤーチー)

Hirayachi is a Okinawan pancake. It mixes flour, egg, and dashi, then cooks it together with leek or Chinse chive. The texture is close to a Korean pancake. You can eat in Izakaya (Japanese bar), at a takeaway store, or you can buy Hirayachi mix flour to cook by yourself!

2. Pork-egg Onigiri(ポーク卵おにぎり)

Pork-egg onigiri is a rice sandwiched SPAM pork and fried egg in between. It is usually sold in bento (lunch box) shops in Okinawa.

3. Mozuku Tempura(もずく天ぷら)

Mozuku Tempura is a deep-fried fritter of mozuku, seaweed that is special to Okinawa. You can enjoy it in Izakaya, a cafe or a Tempura shop.

4. Onisasa(オニササ)

Onisasa is a short term of Onigiri (rice bowl) and Deep-fried Sasami (chicken tender). They shape onigiri on top of deep-fried chicken tender and drizzle with mayonnaise or sauce. It is a soul food of Ishigaki island and you can purchase it at a food store or bento shop.

5. Mimigar Jerky(ミミガージャーキー)

Mimigar is pig ears in the Okinawan language. It is eaten broadly in Okinawa as a vinegared dish to go with alcohol. For convenience, Okinawans made it into jerky and sell in a food store or souvenir shop.

What sweets is Okinawa known for?

Okinawa sweets have an influence on royal courts during the Ryukyu Kingdon era.

Here are the most commonly seen 5 sweets in Okinawa food festivals or as Okinawan souvenirs from friends.

  1. Red Sweet Potato Tart, Beni Imo Tart(紅芋タルト)
  2. Okinawa Salt Cookies, Chinsuko(ちんすこう)
  3. Benitsutsumi(紅包)
  4. Deep Fried Dough, Sata Andagi(サーターアンダギー)
  5. Chiirunkou(ちいるんこう、鶏卵糕)

1. Red Sweet Potato Tart, Beni Imo Tart(紅芋タルト)

Beni imo tart is a purple sweet potato with a tart. It’s also known as a classic Okinawan souvenir, so you can purchase it in souvenir shops or confectionary stores.

2. Okinawa Salt Cookies, Chinsuko(ちんすこう)

Chinsuko is an Okinawan salt cookie that uses flour, lard, and sugar. It has a hollow and rich texture. This is also a classic Okinawan souvenir you can purchase it in souvenir shops.

3. Benitsutsumi(紅包)

Benitsutsumi is a baked purple sweet potato paste, wrapped with sweet potato paste. From its beautiful purple and yellow color, it’s popular as an Okinawan souvenir.

4. Deep Fried Dough, Sata Andagi(サーターアンダギー)

Sata Andagi is an Okinawan doughnut that is round and cute. The name stands for sugar (sata) and deep-fried food (angagi). You can purchase it in Sata Andagi shops or confectionary stores.

5. Chiirunkou(ちいるんこう、鶏卵糕)

Chiirunkou is a steamed cake that mixes flour, sugar, egg, and kippan (Okinawa confection). This is a dynasty sweet that can be eaten in confectionary stores.

What seafood do Okinawans eat?

Okinawa people eat fish, prawns, and seaweeds just like other prefectures, but it has more colorful and unique seafood that you can’t eat in other places.

With the perfect sea that has beautiful coral reefs and nutrient-rich water, Okinawa is known widely for having these 3 kind of seafood.

  1. Grouper(ミーバイ、ハタ)
  2. Sea Grapes/ Sea Caviar(海ぶどう)
  3. Mozuku Seaweed (もずく)

1. Grouper(ハタ)

Okinawa Seas can catch dozens of different species of grouper among 150 species in the world according to macaroni, a Japanese food web-news site. This includes honeycomb grouper or Malabar grouper.

Especially, leopard coral grouper(スジアラ) is one of the most expensive fish in Japan. Okinawa people simmered with salt and Awamori (Okinawan distilled liquor) to eat, which is called Ma-suni(マース煮).

2. Sea Grapes/ Sea Caviar(海ぶどう)

It’s a seaweed that looks like a grape. The texture is pulpy and the taste is salty and a little bitter. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and eaten as an appetizer in Izakaya.

3. Mozuku Seaweed(もずく)

Mozuku is a seaweed that Okinawa has the most share in Japan. Okinawa is the only place that succeeded in breeding mozuku commercially, according to the Okinawa Mozuku Breeding Promotion Council. It succeded because mozuku usually grows on coral or the stem of other seaweeds, and Okinawa has a broad sea with corals that are suitable for it to grow.

What are the best Okinawan vegetables?

The best Okinawan vegetables are the 2 vegetables below.

  1. Bitter Melon(ゴーヤ)
  2. Shima-rakkyo(島らっきょう)

Okinawa also used to trade with Taiwan, Southeast Asian countries, and Korea. With that influence, Okinawa is especially famous for these 2 vegetables.

1.Bitter Melon(ゴーヤ)– Okinawa’s specialty, as it harvests and ships the most in Japan. Okinawa’s dish “Goya Champur” is popular among Japan. It comes out as a side dish or as a dish to drink with alcohol in Izakaya.

2. Shima-rakkyo(島らっきょう)– Known as an Okinawa shallot, which is often pickled and eaten with beer, or deep-fried to tempura. Also, 80% of shima-rakkyo is cultivated from Ieshima island in Okinawa.

What fruits grow in the Okinawan islands?

Okinawa grows tropical fruits that are hard to harvest in Japan. Here are 8 of the fruits that are known as fruits you can eat in Okinawa.

  1. Okinawan Citrus Fruit, Shikuwasa (シークワーサー)- It’s like lime with more sweetness and less bitterness
  2. Acerola
  3. Mango
  4. Pineapple
  5. Dragon Fruit
  6. Passion Fruit
  7. Star Fruit
  8. Orange Tankan(タンカン)- a hybrid of Ponkan orange and Navel orange. Rich sweetness with less acidity

Why is Okinawan agu pork different from regular pork?

Okinawan Agu pork is marbled and has a sweetness and umami that are 2.5 times more than regular pork. The fat also melts faster in your mouth than regular pork, so you can enjoy the melty texture.

Agu pork is used for shabu shabu, sukiyaki, or Okinawa shoyu pork (rafute). It is used and eaten just like other pork.

Is Okinawa shoyu pork the most famous pork dish from the region?

Yes, it is one of the most famous pork dishes in Okinawa. Okinawa shoyu pork is called rafute(ラフテー)in Japanese, which is braised pork with soy sauce, dashi, alcohol (or awamori), and sugar.

Rafute is one of the most famous pork dishes just like Tebichi (pig’s trotter) or Mimiga (pig’s ear), and you get to see it in Okinawan Izakaya around Japan.

How does Okinawa differ from other regional Japanese food?

Compared to other Japanese regional cuisine, some say that Okinawa has food that is almost like a different country.

With the influence of different cultures such as the history of trading with Southeast Asian countries or serving America, Okinawa built a food culture that is from every part of different countries.

And with its warm weather and beautiful sea surrounding the prefecture, it harvests food that is difficult to grow in other parts of Japan. This includes tropical fruits such as mango or pineapple.

What traditional meals do Okinawans eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Okinawan is one of the five areas identified as the “Blue Zone”. Okinawan diet is “typically high in nutrients and low in calories” as well+good mentions.

Here are the traditional meals that Okinawans eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner that make them a blue zone.


  • Pork-Egg Onigiri(ポークたまごおにぎり)
  • Local Fluffy Tofu, Yushi-Dofu(ゆし豆腐)– tofu that has not yet been pressed and formed. It has a fluffy texture
  • Juicy Onigiri(ジューシーおにぎり)- Okinawa-style seasoned rice molded as a rice ball. It’s a bomb of umami from different ingredients


  • Okinawa Soba(沖縄そば)– Soup noodles with 3 slices of pork. It has a sweet and savory taste. Although it’s called “soba”, their noodle is made from flour with charcoal or brine water and taste more like an udon or Chinese noodle
  • So-ki Soba(ソーキそば)– Same with Okinawa soba, but with spare rib
  • Goya Champur(ゴーヤチャンプル) – Stir-fried Bitter Melon With Pork, egg and tofu
  • Sushi
  • Shabu Shabu of Agu Pork(アグー豚)


  • Sea Grapes/ Sea Caviar(海ぶどう)
  • Local Chewy Tofu, Jimami Tofu(ジーマーミー豆腐)– tofu made from peanuts juice. It has a smooth nutty taste and has been eaten since the Ryukyu Kingdom era.
  • Simmered Pork Legs(てびちの煮付け)– pork legs simmered with dashi, soy sauce, sugar and awamori
  • Braised Pork Belly, Rafute(ラフテー

What food choices make Okinawa a blue zone?

A “blue zone” is a place that live longer and have a high-quality time in their old age, according to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer in 2004.

Okinawa is one of 5 places that are “blue zone”.

This is because a traditional Okinawan diet that mainly focuses on having less sodium, more pork (animal protein), and more vegetables is healthy.

Okinawa’s diet is healthier because, with the warm whole season, they do not have a culture to pickle with a salt or salty brine, according to The Japan Food Journal.

Is Ryukyu food the same as Okinawan food?

Yes, Ryukyu food is part of Okinawan food. Ryukyu food describes food that was established when Okinawa was still an independent country.

Ryukyu food is influenced by Southeast Asian countries and China. This is unlike the meals such as Pork Egg Onigiri or Taco rice, which has a great influence from the U.S.

Where do you go to eat the best Okinawa street food?

Naha-city is recommended to try the best Okinawa street food. It is the most touristy and crowded area, so it’s easier to find places to eat. However, another area like Kin town in Kunigami can be a great choice, too.

Here are the places you want to visit if you’re keen on Okinawa street food.

  1. White Kitchen Okinawa(ホワイトキッチン)
  2. Kokusai Street Food Village(国際通り屋台村)
  3. Sakaemachi Arcade(栄町市場)

1. White Kitchen Okinawa(ホワイトキッチン)– Tacorice store. It’s located in Kin town in Kunigami District, a place famous for Tacorice, the Japanese American dish. Nowadays, tacos become a fancy food in Japan, but White Kitchen serves junky-style just like they served to the American Navy.

2. Kokusai Street Food Village(国際通り屋台村)– One of the areas with most food stalls in Naha City. With its lively atmosphere, you get to eat all of Okinawan food in 21 stalls!

3. Sakaemachi Arcade(栄町市場)– This is a market in the daytime, and Izakaya at night time! It has about 90 Izakaya inside and around the Sakaemachi Arcade, which is located in Naha City. You can enjoy the local food with a local atmosphere.

At which markets can you find the best produce in Okinawa?

Okinawa has few markets that can purchase food directly from the makers.

These are the 3 places that are also recommended on

  1. Makishi Public Market(第一牧志公設市場)
  2. JA Okinawa Farmer’s Market, “Champur Market”(JAおきなわファーマーズマーケット ちゃんぷる〜市場)
  3. Sunrise market(サンライズマーケット)

1.Makishi Public Market(第一牧志公設市場)

This market is close to Kokusai Street in Naha City and is a popular tourist spot. It has been running for more than 60 years and is known as an Okinawan kitchen among tourists. At 1st floor, you can find ingredients like seafood, meat, or seasonings. On the 2nd floor, you can enjoy Okinawa food and even ask the chef to cook food with the purchased ingredients!

2.JA Okinawa Farmer’s Market, “Champur Market”(JAおきなわファーマーズマーケット ちゃんぷる〜市場)

Champur Market is a market that sells farm-produced ingredients and processed food. It’s located in the middle of Okinawa’s main island. You can get mangoes from July to August, and oranges in December!

3. Sunrise market(サンライズマーケット)

Sunrise Market is a market at Sunrise Hana Shopping Street in Naha City. It only opens once a month, on Sunday. Not only you can get Okinawa food to try, but you can also get clothes, accessories, or potteries that you can buy from the creators.

What are typical Okinawan festival foods?

Festival foods are food sold while having their traditional event. For example, “Naha Great Tug of War Festival” is a festival where people do tug of war with a 200m long and big lope. Many tourists will come over to look, so they will have some food stalls around the festival so that people can enjoy the festival without hassle.

Okinawa still has various festivals that you can enjoy every year, such as the “Nago Summer Festival” or “Ryukyu Lantern Festival”.

Not only the typical Okinawan foods, but you can also enjoy the mix of usual festival food in Japan and Okinawa food at a festival.

Here are the typical Okinawan festival foods you can try.

  • Rafute stir-fried noodles
  • Ocellated octopus takoyaki
  • Agu pork rice bowl
  • Beef steak
  • Awamori (Okinawan distilled liquor)

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Yukino Tsuchihashi is a Japanese writer and recipe developer, who loves exploring different ingredients and food from various countries. She studied in an Asian Culinary School in Singapore.