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Shin Okinawa

by on 30 July 2011

The small Japanese island of Okinawa has a markedly different cuisine than that of mainland Japan. Perhaps it's its proximity to China and Korea, or the presence of American servicemen stationed there during WWII. Ingredients such as bitter melon, awamori (Okinawan rice wine), and black rice are found throughout the menu. Shin Okinawa Izakaya in Torrance reflects that uniqueness, offering dishes not found at any other restaurant, Japanese or otherwise.

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I'm not so much of a bitter melon fan, so I tend to stay away from those types of dishes. They offer a non-bitter melon version of chahan, a fried rice using Okinawan black rice. That same rice is also present in the onigiri rice ball, which contained an umeboshi salted plum in the center.

Okinawan-style black fried rice

Black Rice Onigiri

black rice onigiri

Of course, one aspect of Okinawan cuisine that I like is the usage of pork, and Shin Okinawa Izakaya has quite the range of dishes using it. You can start with an appetizer like mimiga which takes slivered pigs ear, deep fried for a great bar snack. Then there's andasu, which is a pork and miso concoction that's eaten as a condiment in the same way that kimchi is used in Korean cuisine.

Mimiga

Andansu

The most famous pork dishes, though, are those braised in awamori. Whether it's soki buni (pork sparerib) or rafutei (pork belly), both dishes are slowly simmered in the fragrant Okinawan rice wine, complementing the unctuous flavor of the pork with the earthy, slightly fruity notes of the wine. All of the braised dishes are aided with the use of an extra pungent mustard to help cut through the rich flavor.

Soki Buni

Rafutei

Finally, Shin Okinaway Izakaya offers quite a few different desserts. The Okinawan "donuts" are dense cake balls that were a bit too dry for my taste, but worked fine when eaten a la mode. Similarly, the roasted sweet potato is a classic island dessert with which I was familiar, made more comforting still by the presence of ice cream. And then there was the unique warabimochi, dusted with soybean flour.

Okinawan Donuts

Sweet Potato and Ice Cream

Warabimochi