Friday, March 15, 2019

Okinawa Short Trip: A Couple Casual Pork Meals

One thing on our to-eat list whilst in Okinawa was pork, particularly their famous local breed Agu Pork. It’s not that hard to find really, given pork is the main food stable on this Pacific island.

We were looking somewhere for a casual lunch after our morning road trip, and stumbled across this place called Yakiniku no Ganaha in Nago, the town in the north side of Okinawa island not far away from the aquarium which almost everyone would stop by for a visit (it's fun, but I wouldn't miss it if we ended up not going). The restaurant is owned by one of the meat distributor on the island and has a few branches around Okinawa. The one we went was supposed to be the “original” shop, at the site where the meat processing plant was just right next door with a retail shop below the restaurant – so one could safely assume the meat just came direct from their facility next door.

The place seems popular with people by the time we arrived at normal lunch hour, but we were soon seated after a brief wait. Surprised to find out they didn’t serve yakiniku at the restaurant during lunch hour, but instead they have a good selection of lunch set with mostly pork selection – everything from tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) to stir-fried to teriyaki or pork chop served on a sizzling plate – and it also came with rice, pork soup and drinks. (and there’s also options for beef and chicken)

Our orders arrived quickly and we thought it’s of great value – my deep-fried pork loin was done with a crispy batter and was delicious with the tonkatsu sauce and an added dash of their secret hot-sauce. The soup – made with pork meat and bone – reminded me of those “Soup of the Day” at Hong Kong Cha-chaan-teng except there’s more flavor to it. It’s a great road-side stopover meal type of a place. And only after we went home we realized they got a second branch just around the corner from the original shop, with all-you-can-eat yakiniku option even during lunch. Ah – maybe something we should try instead next time or come back for dinner for some proper grilled agu pork.

Where? Yakiniku no Ganaha, 2/F 1410-1 Miyazato, Nago, Okinawa, Japan
焼肉乃我那覇 本店 沖縄県名護市宮里1410-1 2F

After spending the first night dining in one of the hotel restaurants, we decided to go out for dinner on the second (and last) night. There’s not much happening in the surrounding area especially during the low travel season, and on the recommendation of the hotel concierge, we went for a restaurant called Kafuu around 5 minutes away by car.

We were a bit worried when the hotel car dropped us off at the restaurant, located on the second floor of a random building on the highway curb with nothing on the ground floor. “Could it be just some totally deserted restaurant with no one at all?” well, that thought turned out to be unfounded as there were quite a bit of customers inside already, eating and drinking. Phew – and actually, if we walked in without a booking, we would have been made to wait for a table.

The restaurant resembles just any casual Japanese shokudo, or diner, with the kitchen at the back and a small bar near the cashier, with a decent selection of awamori and liquor. The place is famous for Agu pork shabu-shabu and that’s the set menu we went for. We started with a few small appetizer dishes first before our main course. The Ishigaki beef sushi is one of their other signature dishes, and it’s decent, with the small slice of beef from the famous Ishigaki-breed was served raw and torched on the surface. I like the good balance of meaty flavor with the tender texture. The baked mussels with sea urchin sauce is one of the special dishes listed on their a la carte menu, and it’s well cooked, with the umami-rich sea urchin sauce coated on top of the mussel shells and baked in an oven. It went down well with the glass of awamori.

Then they brought in the stove and the pot for our shabu-shabu. Well for many of us getting very used to the elaborate soup base in Hong Kong-style hotpot (be it the Sichuan style or the Cantonese style sometimes with the whole chicken or crab thrown in just for the soup flavor) might be disappointed that the “soup” was nothing more than water added with kelp, and put in a simple stainless steel bowl on top of the gas stove. But the star was obviously the slices of agu pork in generous portion.
On the plate full of the meat there were actually 2 different cuts – one the fattier belly and the other slightly leaner loin. I personally prefer the belly part slightly better with good marbled fat and on the trim. With almost no flavor from the soup the meat was delicious on its own with a light dip of the sauce provided (either ponzu or sesame) The set also came with a vegetable basket with some local produce – I thought that was interesting too with some we have never tried before.

To end the meal, from the broth that has taken up the meat and vegetable flavor it’s turned into an Okinawan boroboro jushi which is similar to zosui but with rice mixed with pork, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, scallions and kelp then cooked into porridge consistency. Then it’s a dessert of kokuto icecream with red bean paste. Again, nothing overly fancy, but it’s satisfying.

Where? Agu Shabu-shabu Kafuu, 2/F, 2217 Nakama, Onna Village, Kunigami, Okinawa, Japan
あぐーしゃぶしゃぶ・沖縄料理 かふぅ 沖縄県 国頭郡恩納村 名嘉真 2217-1 大道アパート 2F

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