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

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Okinawa Part IVb: Delicious meals at Little Inn Ai, Ishigaki

I promise this is the last post on our trip to Okinawa. Our stay at 小さなペンション藍 (Chiisana Pension Ai or Little Inn Ai) was great, and the meals we had there were excellent. The owner chef of the inn used to own a small izakaya, and we were looking forward to eating the food.


Dinner was a multi-course affair, and we enjoyed seasonal produce that are found only on the island.

Part of the dinner spread: (clockwise from top right) Goya Champuru, Salad with Italian-style dressing, Rosemary Chicken, and salt for the tempura which were still being fried as the shot was taken:

The Goya Champuru was a stirfried dish of goya (bitter gourd/melon), moyashi (beansprouts), eggs and bacon. The fried bacon pieces added oomph to this Okinawan favourite. The Salad was very refreshing with hunks of ham and a sweet-savoury tomato-ey Italian-style dressing.

Close-ups of Goya Champuru and Salad:

The Rosemary Chicken were flavourful juicy pieces of chicken thighs, minimally accompanied by a few wedges of fried potato and a couple of cherry tomatoes. The Oxtail Soup was rich in flavour and quite simply delicious - perfect on an unusually chilly day for Ishigaki. It was my first time trying oxtail soup.

Close-ups of the Rosemary Chicken and the Oxtail Soup:

We had the tempura the best way to eat it - freshly cooked and piping hot. The Vegetable Tempura were all produce that are native to the island: Otaniwatari, a type of sansai (wild vegetable); Shima-rakyou, a type of shallots (shima means island); and Shima-ninjin, a native carrot. While we were enjoying the vegetable tempura, the chef came into the dining area and placed freshly fried Gurukun tempura pieces on the plate. Apparently the gurukun is the prefectural fish of Okinawa.

Tempura: Otaniwatari (green ones), Shima-rakyou (in the foreground and the furthest back), and the Shima-ninjin (yellow sticks in the middle of the plate); and Gurukun tempura:

At our request, Satomi brought out the raw shima-ninjin and shima-rakyou to show us how they look like.

Dessert was a Beni Imo Manjyuu, a purple sweet potato sweet bun. These were mildly sweet, which was a great way to end the meal. By the way, these purple sweet potatoes are huge in Okinawa, and you can find various beni imo-flavoured items everywhere in Okinawa.

Beni Imo Manjyuu:


Breakfast was a more simple affair, but still well-prepared and well-liked. Spam and egg made an appearance, and this is not a bad combination. Considering its popularity in Okinawa, we'd done well to avoid Spam on this trip. I loved the toasted cheesy tomato bruschetta, and the potato salad was pretty good too. I even enjoyed the simple pleasure of eating freshly toasted bread with yuzu marmalade.

Breakfast: (clockwise from top right) Tomato Bruschetta, Spam and Egg, Potato Salad, Vegetable Salad; and the toasted bread (beni imo-flavoured and walnut) with yuzu marmalade:

We really enjoyed our accommodation at this Little Inn, and the food added the perfect accent to our stay. Highly recommended by all three of us. I booked via this this website.


  1. I have never been a fan of tempura... I think it's got something to do with it being fried...

  2. Me too. I am not big on battered and fried stuff, and most tempura I've had leaves a lot to be desired. But if tempura is done right, with the right kind of light batter, and fried in such a way that does not taste greasy, then I like. These ones were great, not at all greasy, and very lightly fried.