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How Canned Meat Made Its Way Into Okinawan Cooking

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 2000-06-02

After World War II, Okinawans faced great hardship, as they had to rebuild their lives and were in desperate need of food. The American military helped the Okinawans by giving them rations of canned meats and other foods. Subsequently, many Okinawans had come to rely on the canned meat as a main

Ingredient in their local dishes and as a primary source of protein.Therefore, a local Okinawan family owned business, Tomimura Shoji Company,did extensive research about canned meats in the hopes of finding somethingdelicious and reasonably priced to offer to their fellow Okinawans. They traveled all over Europe and finally found Tulip, which is the European top seller of canned meats, in Denmark.

The Tomimura family even went as far asto bring Okinawan ingredients, like noodles, goya, and tofu, to cook withTulipšs pork luncheon meat to decide whether it complimented their traditional dishes. Tulip was their overall favorite and they knew that the Okinawans would love their products. Tomimura asked Tulip to make the canned meat according to Okinawans' taste buds, which meant a less salty and a slightly different taste.

Since 1958, Tomimura has been importing Tulip canned meats to Okinawa, and now over 90% of Tulipšs products are bought by Okinawans. Now, the second and third generation of Tomimurašs, Choho and Choshu, are importing 15 varieties of Tulipšs canned meats, including pork luncheon meat with milk protein, bacon luncheon meat, chopped ham, hot dogs, and liver paste.

In 1993, the Tomimura family was given the Prince Henrik Award for selling thelargest number of Tulip products in the world! This indispensable product isused in popular dishes like goya champuru (a bitter melon stir-fry), Okinawan soba dishes, and fried rice. You may even find onigiri (rice balls) sandwiches with Tulipšs pork luncheon meat and eggs at local convenience stores. People seem to love the canned meat because it makes cooking much easier for those hard working people who have little time to prepare a nutritious meal. Another remarkable aspect of Tulipšs products is that they have a shelf life of up to 5 years, so you may purchase the products in bulk and make fewer trips to the store! Along with Tulips products, Tomimura also sells miso from Nagasaki andimports of olive oil from Spain and canned hash (corned beef and potato) from Australia. You can find any of these products in any major supermarket and convenience store around Okinawa.

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