Okinawa is home to largest population of centenarians in the world. Many say the unique Okinawan diet plays a large part in their secret to long life. Because of the difference in culture, climate, vegetables and other ingredients between Okinawa and mainland Japan, the Okinawan cuisine is very different from what is commonly known as Japanese cuisine. Here you will find stir fries, tropical fish sashimi, American fusion dishes like tacos rice and the local fire water, awamori.
Champuru is an Okinawan word that can be translated as "mix." Thus, champuru foods are a mixture of various ingredients that are thrown together in a frying pan or wok and stir fried. A specific champuru is usually named for its main ingredient, although they usually contain several different elements. The most common champuru found in eateries and restaurants on the island are goya (bittermelon) champuru, said to be especially good during the hot summer months, tofu champuru, and somen champuru, which is fried thin somen noodles mixed with tuna, egg, luncheon pork and other items. Just about every cook and housewife on the island has his or her own champuru recipe.
Beni-imo (purple sweet potato)
The Yomitan beni imo is a purple sweet potato. In Okinawa you will see many kinds of sweets made from purple sweet potato. Their vivid purple colour might make you think they are packed with artificially colourings, but it is 100% natural! Try beni imo ice cream, beni imo tarts (pictured right) and beni imo cheesecake. You will see some unattended beni imo stalls on streets running through sugarcane fields. The price is posted, so leave your money and take the beni imo with you. Beni imo-flavored noodles are also available for those without a sweet tooth.
Okinawa's indigenous tipple of choice is Awamori. Analcoholic beverage unique to Okinawa, it is made from rice and has a strong alcohol content of 30–43%. Instead of being brewed like sake, it is distilled like a single malt scotch. However, it can also be found with an alcohol percentage as high as 60%. The most popular way to drink awamori is with water and ice, or mixed with the island’s delicious tropical juices.
Taco rice is fried mince meat on a bed of rice mixed with fresh chopped green salad and spiced with a salsa-type sauce. It is one of the newer creations in Okinawa. Cooks working in restaurants that used to serve Mexican-style meals to American servicemen experimented with taco ingredients in an attempt to create a dish more appealing to local tastes and came up with an idea of spreading minced meat over rice.