Some interesting facts about a delicious Okinawan treat!
Okinawa is famous for its island beauty, for its inhabitants’ longevity, for its fascinating mix of cultures, and for its food! Okinawa soba is just one example of the culinary achievements of Okinawa.
HISTORY OF OKINAWA SOBA:
What is Okinawa soba? Well, for one thing, it’s not soba! “Soba” in Japanese means “buckwheat”, and therefore, the Japanese refer to buckwheat noodles, too, as “soba”. But Okinawa soba noodles contain no buckwheat at all! They are more similar in composition and flavour to the Japanese udon noodle. In fact, when Okinawa became reunified into the Japanese nation in 1972, there was quite a scandal about whether Okinawans should be allowed to call the dish “soba”, because according to ordinary Japanese noodle nomenclature, a noodle had to be at least partly buckwheat to be called “soba”. However, because it had been historically called such, and was therefore culturally important to the Okinawans, they made an exception to the rule.
The noodles are prepared in a soup broth made of seaweed, fish, and meat – usually dried tuna and pork. It is also served with vegetables inside, and meat, or even flavored with a special spicy sauce called kooreeguusu.
The dish has its culinary roots in China, where pork stews and noodle dishes were common. In these early days of Okinawa soba, the dish was considered so special that only royalty were permitted to consume it. Thank goodness that has changed! Since Okinawa was annexed by Japan in the 1800s, anyone can eat this delicious treat!
RECIPE FOR OKINAWA SOBA:
2 lb pork bones
1/2 lb belly pork
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups bonito flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pork stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon awamori (Okinawan whiskey) or
sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 pkg (14 oz) fresh Okinawan soba (wheat noodles)
1/3 block (7 oz size) kamaboko (Japanese steamed
fish cake), cut into 8 thin slices
1 green onion, cut into 3-inch lengths
In a saucepot, cover pork bones and belly pork with water. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse. Add the 3 quarts water; bring again to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim and continue cooking for 30 more minutes. Remove pork bones from stock and discard; remove belly pork and cut into 3 x 2 x 1/4-inch slices. To stock, add bonito flakes; boil for 2 minutes. Strain stock and discard flakes. Add salt and the 1 teaspoon soy sauce; simmer for 2 more minutes. In a skillet, combine sugar, pork stock, the 3 tablespoons soy sauce, the sake, and mirin; bring to a boil. Add pork slices and cook, turning occasionally, until well glazed. Pour boiling water over soba, drain. Place noodles in 4 serving bowls; add seasoned stock. Garnish with pork, kamaboko, and green onion. Makes 4 servings.