The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 27 March 2009

Okinawa Part IVa: Ishigaki Specialties

So now that we'd eaten most of the well-known Okinawan dishes during our very short time in Naha, we were keen on focusing on eating the island's specialties during stay in Ishigaki.

Yaeyama soba at Masando

For dinner on the first night, we headed to Masando to eat Yaeyama Soba (the noodles are named after the group of islands that Ishigaki is a part of), which is apparently Yaeyama's best known dish. We went to Masando based on recommendations from wikitravel and the city's websites. Normal soba are made with buckwheat flour, but these ones are made with wheat flour and resemble more like what the Japanese call chuka soba (Chinese soba) that's used in the popular yakisoba (thinking about it, there really isn't much difference between the noodles used for yakisoba and ramen).

As well as serving the usual Yaeyama soba at Masando, they also serve soki soba using Yaeyama soba, which is like eating a double specialty since soki (stewed pork spare ribs) is an Okinawan dish. (By the way, Okinawa soba is different again to both the usual buckwheat variety and the Yaeyama soba - these wheat noodles resemble more like udon. Ordering soki soba outside of the Yaeyama islands would most probably get you stewed pork with these thick noodles.) The stewed pork was soft and delicious from the stewing sauce, the noodles were firm and springy (as opposed to overcooked and mushy), and you can't stop drinking the soup! We also got some Fu Champuru which is a stirfry using wheat gluten, vegetables and eggs. Out of all the champuru dishes I've tried during our Okinawa trip, I like this one the best. I'm not sure what Rob thought of fu, the texture of which can be likened to soggy (but chewy) bread, but I like it!

Soki Soba; and Fu Champuru:

We also ordered some fried fish cakes and Jimami-dofu, which is also another Okinawan dish. Jimami-dofu is a peanut tofu which has more of a mochi-like texture. I think that it doesn't contain any soybeans, like my favourite 'tofu', goma-dofu (sesame tofu). But unlike goma-dofu, jimami-dofu was a bit plain tasting and I couldn't taste any peanuts in it (it was served with soy sauce here). I do like the texture though!

Fried fishcake; and Jimami-dofu:

I don't recall the individual pricing of our dinner, only that the total came to around 2300yen. Good food here!

Ishigaki beef at Kinjo

Another specialty on Ishigaki island is Ishigaki beef, which is a type of wagyu. I'm not that big on red meat, but I wanted to try it since it is a local specialty. Near our hotel, there's a restaurant called Kinjyo that serves Ishigaki beef at a more affordable price during lunch time, and that was where we headed for lunch after checking out of our hotel the following day. Kinjyo is a yakiniku restaurant, where we grill our own meat to the way we like them. I ordered the Toku-jyo Yakiniku Teishoku (Special Top Quality Beef Lunch Set for 2500yen) which came with a bowl of rice, miso soup, salad and kimchi, and Rob ordered the Toku-jyo Steak Lunch (for 3500yen) which also came with a bowl of rice, miso soup and salad (no kimchi). Both came with 160g of meat. We both thought that the meat in the cheaper set was a bit too fatty for our liking, and we both preferred the more expensive meat. I guess that's why it was more expensive, huh?

Teishoku set and the accompanying dishes:

The baby woke up just as our food was being served. Here's Rob holding Zak and eating, and his order of the steak lunch:

Yakiniku action!

Unusual Gelato Flavours

After lunch, we burnt off some calories by exploring the town on foot. We were also in search of this gelateria called Ishigaki Gelato to consume more calories. There we found flavours such as Ishigaki Salt (the shop's most popular flavour) and Seaweed with Vinegar, both of which we had to try. Rob was at first iffy about my choice of the seaweed gelato, but after trying it, he agreed with me that it was nicer than the salt flavour. Two scoops for 500yen.

The range of gelato flavours; and our Ishigaki Salt and Seaweed with Vinegar cone:

Convenience food on the go

On the morning of our return flight back to Tokyo, I asked Satomi (of the Little Inn Ai that I previously raved about - I will post a separate review of the meals we had there) for recommendations on what we could buy for lunch to have on the plane. She directed us to a shop in the airport that sells a certain type of onigiri (rice ball) that cannot be found outside of Ishigaki. It's called Jyushii (juicy?) Kamaboko (210yen), a rice ball that is wrapped in a type of fish cake. Satomi said that it is something she and her husband always buy for lunch-to-go at the airport. We also got another type of Onigiri Kamaboko (165yen), and Ishigaki Gyu Omusubi (Ishigaki beef rice ball for 375yen). They were all delicious and filled our tummies sufficiently.

Our lunch to go: (left to right) Jyushii Kamaboko, Ishigaki beef rice ball and the Onigiri Kamaboko; and the jyushii kamaboko onigiri unwrapped:

We also found Spam onigiri, which is an Okinawan thing because they love their Spam here!

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