In the world of gastronomy, Japan has long captured the attention of food lovers, inspiring chefs, and trendsetters worldwide. Yet, there’s a lesser-known treasure, the cuisine of Okinawa. Or better the Yaeyama Islands, because even in the same region differences occur.
Traditional Japanese diet versus the Okinawan diet
While the traditional Japanese diet is renowned for its healthfulness, emphasizing vegetables, tofu, and fish, the heart of every meal being rice accompanied by pickles and soup, Okinawan cuisine tells a different tale. Rooted in history and local resources, Okinawan food weaves its narrative with local ingredients, offering a unique blend of tastes.
In the world of flavours, each region’s cooking methods tell a unique story. In Honshu, Japanese cuisine leans towards water-based techniques, showcasing the art of raw, simmered, and grilled dishes.
When it comes to fried indulgences, the mainland’s approach is measured, often enjoying a few pieces of tempura alongside a balanced meal. This mindful approach ensures that even with occasional fried delights, the overall harmony of the dining experience remains healthful.
Venture to the enchanting Yaeyama islands and Okinawa, and you’ll find a departure from the mainland’s norms. Frying takes a prominent role here, influenced by the islands’ history as an independent kingdom and the tapestry of Asian influences that shaped their cuisine.
Tropical fruits paradise
During the fruit season (May to July) the islands are an oasis of tropical fruit with pineapples, passionfruit, mango, shikuwasa, watermelon, papaya. In late summer the colourful dragon fruit appears, which are a feast for the eye.
Restaurants in the Yaeyama islands
A variety of restaurants can be found in the Yaeyama Islands, in Ishigaki the largest, ranging from local Yaeyama cuisine to establishments offering Chinese, Korean, American, Italian and French-inspired dishes.
Most of the evening restaurants and bars concentrate in the center or largest village of the islands. Lunch spots spread around the islands.
Vegetarian in Japan
Locating 100% vegetarian or vegan restaurants across Japan can be quite challenging, particularly when faced with a language barrier. But fortunately with Japans buddhist influence the Japanese cuisine offers many delicious vegetarian dishes. While the availability of vegetarian options is more limited in the Yaeyama Islands, there are emerging restaurants that offer both vegetarian and vegan choices.