Okinawa, Japan is known for military, Japanese, and Chinese culture. What you may not know is that the food in Okinawa is unique to the country of Japan. Itadakimasu!

American Village in Okinawa 
Photo by Skaterlunatic on Unsplash
American Village in Okinawa
Photo by Skaterlunatic on Unsplash

Okinawa’s culture is a unique mix of Chinese, Japanese, Ryukyuan, and American. The best part of travelling is often the food! I encourage you to stray away from the standard food you would expect in Japan and go deeper into the more unique Okinawan food.

Sea Grapes?

Unique Okinawa Food
Umi Budo - Sea Grapes 
Photo by Hajime Nakano on Flickr
Umi Budo (Sea Grapes) are a great side or appetizer!
Photo by Hajime Nakano on Flickr

Sea grapes are one of the most daunting foods in Okinawa. They go by the names umi budo, green caviar, and popping seaweed bubbles! In fact, they are none of those things. Sea grapes are an algae species and the unique little pearls grow off of the stem.

If you dislike salty foods, then you will not like sea grapes. This unique food is a mixture of sweet and sour with that distinct oceanic taste. They pop in your mouth and are often in cocktails or served over rice. This unique Okinawan food is worth a try!

Rafute: Slow-Braised Pork

Unique Okinawa Food
Rafute - Slow Braised Pork
Photo by Sarah R. Peets
Rafute (slow braised pork) and hot mustard round out your meal.
Photo by Sarah R. Peets

Okinawa is known for its pork! When you think of amazing beef you think of Kobe or Wagyu. Okinawan pork is the Kobe of the world. Rafute is Okinawan braised pork belly. Slow cooked to perfection with the skin on, it is a food worth every yen.

The shoyu sauce – a mix of soy sauce and brown sugar – is the perfect blend of sweet and savory to fall ontop of your food. With one mouthwatering bite, you can see why this unique food was once reserved for Okinawan Royalty.

Mimiga: Okinawa Pig Ear Jerky

Unique Okinawa Food
Mimiga - Pig Ear Jerky
Photo by Sarah R. Peets
Mimiga (pig ear jerky) is a common bar snack in Okinawa!
Photo by Sarah R. Peets

This unique Okinawan food is a little intimidating. It is worth a try! Mimiga is pig ear jerky. While we often think of reserving pig ears for pets, mimiga is soaked in an acidic, kimchi-like broth. It remains chewy like you would want for jerky. It also is soft enough to combat the cartilage.

You will find mimiga often in bars or in the snack aisle of the local 7 Eleven. Be careful to not grab the spicy one unless you are ready for spicy food!

Agu: Okinawa Pork

Unique Okinawa Food
Agu
Photo by Sarah R. Peets
Agu is the Wagyu of the pork world!
Photo by Sarah R. Peets

Did you really think I was done talking about pork!? What makes Agu so special? This species of pig is called “the phantom pig” and is unique to Okinawa. Prized for its umami taste, marbling, and low cholesterol content, Agu is the pride and joy of Okinawan food.

I would suggest finding the closest shabu-shabu restaurant to find affordable and delicious cuts of meat. This is a unique cooking experience. As always, in any Japanese or Okinawan restaurant where you cook your own food, do not be afraid to ask how!

Shikuwasa: Taiwan and Okinawa Fruit

Unique Okinawa Food: 
Shikuwasa
Photo by Roy P. on Unsplash
Cocktails, chips, and more are seasoned with unique Shikuwasa in Okinawa!
Photo by Roy P. on Unsplash

Native only to Taiwan and Okinawa, the Shikuwasa is a unique citrus you must try while visiting. Looking more like a lime as they grow, this Okinawan citrus looks like a wrinkly lemon on the inside.

Being far more sweet than sour, it is important to opt for dishes seasoned with this unique Okinawan food. My favorite snack while visiting Okinawa was Shikuwasa chips. They were much like a unique Okinawan citrus version of salt and vinegar chips!


Okinawa is unique in culture, history, and food! For more unique food subscribe to our newsletter. Life is an adventure, we have to explore it all!