Okinawans are among the healthiest people in the world, mostly due to their diet of superfoods. Participants at a recent Simply Her workshop learnt how to cook with them.
Thanks to its tropical climate, fertile soil and pristine surrounds, produce from Okinawa prefecture is prized throughout Japan for its superb quality.
At a recent Simply Her hands-on cooking workshop, held in partnership with the Okinawa Prefectural Government Singapore Office at ABC Cooking Studio, Simply Her readers learnt how to cook four easy and nutritious traditional Okinawan dishes.
Yukie Miyaguni, head of Yakuzen Ryuka Cooking School in Okinawa, also shared insights into some of the prefecture’s most popular superfoods and why they’re so good for you.
1. GOYA (JAPANESE BITTER GOURD)
Goya, Japanese bitter gourd, is one of the most popular vegetables in Okinawa. It is believed to cool the body and soothe tired eyes. Its detoxifying properties are useful if you’ve been eating a lot of rich food.
Cook: Slice, then stir-fry with egg and tofu.
2. HECHIMA (JAPANESE SPONGE GOURD)
Also known as hairy gourd or luffa, hechima is believed to improve blood circulation, soothe coughs, as well as reduce swelling and puffiness in the body. There are two other reasons why hechima is popular with women: Its high vitamin C content is said to make it a good anti- ageing superfood, and it is considered helpful in increasing milk production for breastfeeding mums.
Cook: Add to soups.
3. PORK BELLY
It sounds too good to be true, but the Japanese swear by pork belly to keep their skin moisturised and “mochi mochi” (Japanese for “supple”). Pork belly is rich in iron, which makes it especially good for people who suffer from anaemia.
Cook: One of the most classic Okinawan dishes is rafute – braised pork belly cooked with awamori, a traditional Japanese rice liquor. Pork belly is also often marinated with miso, which is said to be good for digestive health.
4. OKINAWA BROWN SUGAR
Okinawa brown sugar is higher in minerals like calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium compared with white sugar, thanks to the sugarcane fields’ proximity to the ocean. A heaty ingredient, it is said to be able to improve blood circulation, keep the flu at bay and reduce menstrual cramps. It has a rich and complex flavour, so a little goes a long way.
Cook: Make cakes and cookies with it.
Photography Darren Chang