Okinawan zenzai is perfect antidote to summer heat
Nothing is said to be as refreshing on a sweltering hot summer day as a bowl of Okinawan zenzai, a dish of sweet red kidney bean soup topped with lots of shaved ice.
Inamine Restaurant in Itoman City specializes in iced foods such as shaved ice, ice cream and parfait, and has been a favorite of local residents for a long time. They are especially praised for their Okinawan-style zenzai that is a must-have dish during the hot summer of Okinawa.
Zenzai elsewhere in Japan is known as a sweet soup made of red beans, ‘azuki’, and usually eaten hot. The Okinawa zenzai is cooked of red kidney beans, which are slowly simmered for hours with brown sugar, and served cool with a pile of shaved ice on top. The difference between the Okinawan and Japanese zenzai became known nationwide during the so-called “Okinawa boom” around 2000.
Inamine Restaurant in Itoman City serves its original zenzai they call ‘Shirokuma’ adding a bit of their own original ingredients into the original Okinawa zenzai. ‘Shirokuma’, in English polar bear, is one of their most popular dishes, and it’s even introduced in national TV. The restaurant puts a mountain of shaved ice on the bean soup, pours condensed milk on the ice and decorates it with pieces of fruit arranged to create a polar bear. The bear zenzai will be about 20~30 cm tall. How long will it take to eat it? It might be difficult to finish it all by yourself, but it’s a delicious and good combination.
The beans are home-made-style with mild flavor, and smooth to eat. In addition to Shirokuma Zenzai, they have a smaller-sized Shirokuma Zenzai, shaved ice and common Okinawan-style set meals.
Ordering is also a bit unique. Customers write their order and the number of their table themselves on a piece of paper that they then hand over to the kitchen. The restaurant operator says that this is the way orders in Inamine Restaurant have been placed since the restaurant opened, and they see no reason to change it.
Restaurant Inamine moved from its former location near the Itoman Rotary to the current site at 1486-3, Itoman, Itoman City, on July 18th last year. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except on Tuesdays when its closed. Their telephone number is 098-995-0418.