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Types of Restaurants

Date Posted: 1999-05-29

Okinawa is blessed with restaurants that cater for every taste. You can find a restaurant serving authentic Cantonese or Peking-style Chinese food as easily as you can find a hamburger joint or an American fast-food restaurant. Thai, Peruvian, Mexican, Polynesian, Italian, Indian, are all well represented in Okinawa. Local restaurants usually offer the best value for money. Here the style is casual, the atmosphere convivial, the food excellent. Some local style restaurants are listed on the following page.

Sokudo - perhaps the best word in English to describe sokudo is eatery. They are very casual, inexpensive, and offer what could best be described as Okinawan "home cooking." Prices are inexpensive, only 500 to 600 per meal on average which includes the main dish, bowl of rice and soup. Some local specials are goya champuru, okazu and soba.

Izakaya - Izakaya is a Japanese pub. In Okinawa they open usually from 5 p.m. till late. It's a casual affair, with many coming to eat, drink and socialize. Most izakaya offer teishoku dinners (set meals) and prices are low, from 300 per dish. Draft beer costs around 400 and awamori and whiskey are bought by the bottle and can be kept up to a month for future visits.

Though the main ingredients in both sushi and sashimi are slices of raw fish, there is a difference between the two.

Sushi is lightly vinegared rice with a slice of raw fish on top. At most restaurants the sushi chef will place a dollop of lime-green Japanese horse radish paste called wasabi between the fish and the rice. If you find that this powerful condiment too much, just request your sushi without wasabi by saying, "Wasabi nuki onegai shimasu."

Sashimi consists of raw fish slices and is served on a plate with a small scoop of wasabi on the side. Use your chopsticks to place a small amount of wasabi in one of the tiny dishes that accompanies the order, and mix the wasabi with a little soy sauce. Dip your slice of fish into the mixture before eating.

If there is one meal that practically every foreigner likes, it is Yakitori, chunks of grilled or friend chicken on a bamboo skewer. Other ingredients, such as beef, onions, shrimp, vegetables and other grilled food on similar bamboo sticks are available.

Another popular Japanese dish is tempura - deep-fried fish and vegetables. Tempura is often served as a teishoku. It is usually accompanied by sashimi, rice, miso soup, a small seaweed salad, a small bowl of tempura sauce, grated white radish and chopped green onions.

Okinawan people eat a lot of noodle dishes, and unlike ramen noodles which are popular in mainland, local soba (noodles) is made from flour, not buckwheat.

The Okinawan variety of noodles is served in a bowl of broth and topped with thick slices of tender pork, shavings of green onions and a piece of kamaboko, fish paste.

When dining on Okinawan soba or any other kind of noodle for that matter, it is perfectly all right to make some noise. And trust us, slurping is acceptable.

Another popular noodle dish is ramen. Ramen noodles are thinner than soba although the taste is almost the same. Bowls of ramen are topped with slices of beef, chicken, ham, bean sprouts, onion, and seaweed. Ramen dishes are often accompanied with gyoza - dumplings stuffed with meat, garlic and green onions. Mix some shoyu (soy sauce) and rayu (Chinese chili oil) in a small dish and dip the gyoza when eating.

Taco rice is a relatively new addition to the Okinawan menu, and consists of fried ground meat on rice mixed with fresh chopped salad leaves and served with salsa-type sauce. It has become especially popular among younger people. The dish was invented in Okinawa's Kin area, near Camp Hansen. Cooks working in restaurants that served Mexican style meals for American servicemen experimented with taco ingredients and come up with an idea of spreading minced meat over rice, covering it with tomato slices and sliced green vegetables, and serving it with salsa-style sauce on the side.

Things to remember: The main thing to remember, as in any country, is to use common sense. In other words, don't be rude, say "please" and "thank you," and compliment the chef if you really enjoyed the meal.

At the beginning of a meal at a Japanese restaurant, patrons are always handed a moistened cloth called "oshibori," warm in the winter and cold in the summer. Oshibori is used to cleanse hands before starting the meal, and sometimes you can see patrons wipe their faces as well. When faced with a tatami floor, you must remove your shoes. The most important thing to remember when dining out in Okinawa is to have fun. Try new dishes and experience what authentic Okinawan cuisine is all about.

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