Ocean’s Pizza

Now I know that I owe you all a big, juicy article about my adventures with Iron Chef Morimoto, and really guys, I DID write it, but due to the sometimes abhorrent cruelty of technology, after I worked for 8 hours on said literary tome, I managed to lose the damn thing between the “Preview” and “Post” part of the experience. Exasperated beyond belief, I chucked my computer into it’s case, poured a glass of wine and gave up for a few days.

So here’s what we’ll do…

You like this view….feel like looking at that while you eat? Read on!

Inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Hannah, I will give you a little restaurant review and get my juju back on and THEN I will tackle the epic tale of Natasha and Morimoto, okay?

And without further ado, let’s talk about a little place called Ocean’s Pizza!

The back entrance to Ocean’s Pizza, just off the Salt Factory gift shop.

Allow me, for a moment to get a little cheesy (pun totally intended) and make an analogy. I am an actress and director and consider myself fairly well versed in the cinematic arts. I love foreign films as much as I adore an aged french cheese. I can speak about The Criterion Collection as well as I appreciate the rustic blends of Grenache, Cinsault, Mouvedre and what-have-you in a gorgeous bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  I can be as picky and discerning about my film viewing as I am my food. But sometimes a girl just wants to watch “Ocean’s Eleven.” Really. Some pretty men, cheesy dialogue, fun romp through Vegas and sticking it to your enemy! It’s ENTERTAINING. I don’t watch films like that all the time, but I sure do love them when I want to. Similarly, I don’t eat pizza all the time, but on occasion a girl just is desperate for a little greasy, cheesy decadence. Of course, living in Japan, you wouldn’t think there were many places to procure such lovely guiltiness. In fact, even on the American military bases, where junk and fast food abound, all you really get is Pizza Hut. (This I would maybe compare to something Vin Diesel was in. Or Steven Seagal…ehhh ick!) So when I awakened one beautiful, breezy, late Saturday morning with a craving for some “pie” I wanted to find a place that would allow my husband and I to hang out by the water and enjoy fresh, gorgeous pizza that didn’t come from some corporate warehouse in the states. Where did we find such a specific piece of heaven? Yomitan.

Yours truly on an ancient ruin in Yomitan!

Yomitan is a fairly rural area heading north from central Okinawa on the western side of the island. It is loaded with remote beaches, one of which is located right down the cliff from Ocean’s, and Yomitan is also, interestingly (and in some ways tragically)  the site of the initial landing of the Allied Forces in the Battle of Okinawa. This is also the area I wrote of in my piece about making your own sea salt https://gratuitousgrub.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/the-first-extravagance/  and if you are thinking of popping in to enjoy this incredible, fascinating experience, make sure to have lunch at Ocean’s Pizza which is literally right next door!

Yup it is THAT brand of fun cheese!

The buffet!

Ocean’s was bustling when we arrived but the efficient and creative kitchen kept the dishes parading out! The pizzas were all so very different.

Fresh Veggie Pizza, Four Cheese and Pineapple with Local Ham and Sausage.

Some covered with different local veggies, some with all sorts of cheese, pineapple and local ham, sausage and ham, jalapeno chicken, teriyaki, and my favorite which was a strange mayo-cheese-ham covered in what would normally be the toppings to a taco rice. I know, I know it sounds strange, but it was amazingly good!

Left to right: Jalapeno Chicken Pizza and Blue Cheese Salad. The “Strange Mayo etc” Pizza with assorted pastas, egg salad, potato salad, and muffin.

To compliment the pizzas the chefs also provide a buffet array of pastas, soups, muffins, and salad fixings, along with coffee, tea, and soft drinks. There is a margarita of the day, which I am assuming is good because I couldn’t actually procure one as they were already sold out!

The view from the porch dining area is lovely, looking out over majestic turquoise sea and a special fixture of your experience is that you might, just might, get a visit from the sweet little cat that I nicknamed Lucky Kitty because he not only loves his pizza, but he gets to be fed by suckers like us all day and will take as much as you choose to give him and give you lots of soft and meows in return!

Lucky Kitty wanders off to find more pizza!

To get to Ocean’s Pizza check out their English language website http://www.oceanspizza.com/ It seems to cater to Americans, but when we were there it was full of locals…always a very good sign. So take a break from being pretentious (or eating Steven Seagul…*shudder*) and go sit by the beach, have a little guilty pleasure with “The Ocean’s Eleven” of pizza joints!

Posted in Okinawa, Okinawa Restaurant Review, Pizza, Pork, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Season of Mists and Not-So-Mellow Fruitfulness

Autumn is here on Okinawa, and by Autumn I don’t mean my belly dancing, hippie girlfriend from Arizona. I mean Keat’s “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun,” my favorite season of the yearly cycle. That time of year when Earth begins to prepare for the winter slumbers. When the days get shorter, the chill tickles the air, and our produce usually changes from the vibrant, delicate fruits and veggies of summer to the more hearty, rustic fare of the fall. Even on Okinawa, tropical and lush as it may seem to visitors and newbies, it is a very obvious change of season. Off go the air conditioners and the windows and doors fly open, letting the cool breeze in. The air begins to smell of burning crops, the farmers preparing their fields for the winter, and the harvest being brought in changes from that of the summery bright green goya to the purple Okinawan sweet potato.

Oki sweet taters! Mmmmmm!

In every Konbini (convenience store) they begin to serve Oden, a warm soup-like meal made with soy and dashi broth and served with your choice of anything from boiled quail eggs, daikon, rice noodles, tofu, fish cakes, sausages, pigs feet and so on. You basically choose whatever you want and pay per ingredient.

Oden with Quail Egg, Tomagi, and Daikon on Sunset Beach!

 

 

 

To celebrate the start of Autumn I recently picked up my first Oden of the season and headed off to the almost vacant beach to enjoy the quiet solitude that “cold weather” affords an Autumnal beach-goer. I mean WHO in their right mind would be on the beach when it was only 70 degrees F???  Teehee!

Along with the subtle entrance of Autumn comes a gaggle of holidays and events staring you right between the eyes, challanging you to a financial, gastronomical, and social duel to the death. My first challenge this year has been a desperate attempt to FINALLY throw “The Great Okinawa Halloween Party,” but due to the chaotic flip flop that has occured with so many of my friends this year, be it loss of a job, illnesses, or just plain being out of the country, I am afraid tomorrow night’s Karaoke Kostume Party will be a bust, which is sad after all the effort I have put into it. At least I didn’t cook this time! Still, the hardcore, motley crew will be there and you can be sure that we will make the best of it. To be honest, I was pretty not-so-mellow..ok pissed off, that this was yet again, the third year in a row, that my dream Halloween party was not to be, but like the Fall Season itself teaches us, we must let things go, let them dry up and float away on the wind, or at least sweep them off our doorstep! Samhain, after all, is a very special holiday to me on so many levels, and I intend to enjoy myself, be grateful for what I do have and not be a greeding Gus and envy all the other kids for their candy!

And what is next? Thanksgiving.

It is a silly, silly holiday.

I have never been much of a fan of the “origins” of this holiday, especially since I have lived so long “abroad.” But this year I think I might just go hog wild and roast a whole pig or something. Ok forgive the pun, but I mean it! My brother in law will be on island and my various assorted wayward friends may all need a place to call home for the day, and this is what I can absolutely provide. And I love doing it.
I have only just now realized that, perhaps, the reason I love the fall and winter so much is that because there are so many excuses to get together with people and feast, which I am going to assume was the historical point of said holidays to begin with. The harvest is brought in, and when it is bountiful, much celebrating was in order!

Feasting in the day!

There was no being out of doors, especially in places like England and “The New World” where such traditions originated and thus any excuse to party like it’s 1699 became a tradtion. Alright so Okinawa isn’t as dire as all that, but I can argue that November marks the end of Typhoon season and after the past…what? seven, eight typhoons this season?…I am ready to throw down a harvest feast and dance around a bonfire like a wild woman! More on this subject, no doubt, shall grace the “pages” of this anecdotal hommage to life and food, in all it’s seasons. Until then, Happy Autumn, blessed late Mabon, early Samhain and most importantly, may your cornacopia brim over!

Happy Autumn!!!

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You Can Cantonese On Me

Chinese food.

These words, for most of the Western World, evoke an image of take-away boxes full of greasy kung pao chicken, sweet and sour pork or deep friend wontons delivered to your doorstep and munched in front of the tv, or perhaps the all-you-can-eat buffet (adored by my father) with the dubious beef and broccoli and piles of fried rice. And while this is sometimes a fun and silly meal, it is actually NOT authentic Chinese cuisine.

With all of the political awkwardness going on between Americans and Chinese at the moment, I think that it is high time the barrier to cultural understanding gets a little crack or two in it, and while I have been feverishly desiring a holiday to Macau, the first thing, I always believe, to busting down ethnocentrism is really diving in and spending some quality time eating how and what said culture does! (See my earlier blog about Korean BBQ!) Yeah, yeah…you can always count on me to take a meal to a sociological and marginally utopian level.

Lucky me! My neighbors, Henry and Lieu, are from China and invited us to a premiere AUTHENTIC Chinese restaurant inside the Coco Garden Resort Hotel. This beautiful place is located on a quiet and secluded hill in Ishikawa with an incredibly view of Kinbu Bay.

View from the Coco Garden Resort Hotel Restaurant!

The aesthetic almost reminded me of the resorts in Sedona, Arizona, with it’s lovely distressed rose, burnt orange and golden colors, the fun nuances and art on the walls, as well as the interior wood work and lighting.

Henry get’s us all settled.

Henry, our smiling, all-too-happy-to-please host, Lieu, his sweet, shy wife and their slightly mad children led us to the table and promptly told us that we were to order one of everything on the menu….each!!!! Take that, American Chinese Buffet. And while we WERE presented with menus in English that we were meant to tick off quantities of our SELECT choices, Henry insisted that we enter 2 in each column and call it a day. His reasoning “So you try everything and know what you like best!” You can’t know if you like it without trying….which I would like to say is a good metaphor for cultural relativity. Jus’ sayin’.

Henry, Koyo, Ying, Kogang, Lieu, Me and the BEGINNING of lunch!

Before we knew it a barrage of dishes came barreling toward us! Soups, rice porridges, hot entrees, salads, cold meats, gyozas, dim sums, baozi or “bun bao,” fried dumplings and spring rolls, and ending with a heap of desserts!

All in all we were served about 40 courses! I am not kidding 40!!! Of which I tried around 38. I missed out on the pan fried turnip cakes and subtly did not try the shark fin dumpling for political and ecological reasons. Don’t worry, no one noticed. I would never be rude to my hosts.

Obviously listing the ENTIRE menu would make your brain feel overwhelmed and busting as my gut did so I will just give you a few of the interesting, delicious and awesome delicacy we tucked into today! I hope, at least, that this might entice you to try some of these dishes and give you a jumping off point for Cantonese Cuisine…although, maybe not all at once like we did!

Starters

We started with some amazing pork and veg soup (also on order was egg drop soup) and these lovely sesame donuts that were stuffed with Beni-Imo paste, which is purple sweet potato, also used natively in Okinawa and filled with antioxidants. It is sweet without being cloying and normally not a starter but as it was Lieu’s favorite I followed her suit!

Cold meats!

Next course, cold foods. There was a seaweed salad, chicken in ginger sauce, and roast pork with honey.

Next up, fried rolls and dumplings!

The fried gyoza plate. From top right clockwise: Spring Roll, Shrimp and Sweet Rice Dumpling (my fav!) Shrimp Gyoza, Taro Dumpling, Shrimp Spring Rolls…err triangles. Most excellent!

Steamed Beni-Imo Dumpling. So beautiful and delicious!

Prawn in Mayo Sauce.

The special of the day was brought out. A beautiful, fresh prawn salad with a lemon-mayo sauce. Gorgeous fresh tomatoes, shredded cabbage and lettuce and lemon slices! Decadent!

Sauteed Seasonal Veggies

Very verdant and so elegant, this fresh, hot sauteed plate of seasonal veg, below, changes with what is available at the markets throughout the year. This was Bok Choy, Leeks, Mushrooms, and Bamboo.

More FOOD! Gah! Unbuttoning trousers….

So next we have Sauteed Beef in Oyster Sauce accompanied by a thick, savory Pork in Black Vinegar Sauce. I MUST find a recipe for the pork, as the concept of black vinegar is fascinating to me.

Shrimp in Chili Sauce

The spiciest meal on our adventure through Cantonese yummies was the Shrimp in Chili Sauce, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection. Shrimp in a sauce like this can be tricky because over-cooking can make it chewy. This was EXQUISITE.

More dumplings!

Of course the towers of dumplings continued. Next up, amongst many, were the creamy, buttery scallop dumplings and some made of pork and Mozuku Seaweed, a lovely tasting thin-like-spaghetti, dark green seaweed with a tart taste, also used in salad or eaten on its own. Really, really grand, and so good for you! Also loved by my Goddaughter, Neva!

Ahhhh it never ends!!!

This is one of my favorite type of gyoza, Pork with Green Onion and Garlic. Variations on this theme were brought over to Oki years ago and I try it where I find it!

 

The last dumpling and steamed goodies I tucked into was the sweeter, more dessert versions. To the left is a Azuki, or Sweet Red Bean Paste Bun Bao, or Baozi.

It’s kinda like biting into a sweet, hot cloud! To the right, Beni-Imo Mochi, a squishy rice cake made of sweet rice, pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. This one was stuffed with purple sweet potato paste! So delectable!

Whilst the capacity I have to put away THIS MUCH FOOD is pretty low, I did truly enjoy the experience of trying so many new foods and learn so much about Chinese culture.

Henry serves more delicacies, with the help of precocious daughter Ying, who plays piano, speaks three languages and writes for her school paper…as well as thinks I am the weirdest, most fascinating thing on the planet. Or so it seems! LOL

For instance I learned that where Henry comes from, in the south, the food resembled what we had on our plates, fresh, flavorful but subtle in seasonings, whereas Lieu, coming from the north, favors Szechuan style food, which is incredibly spicy. Another interesting conversation we had was concerning the freshness of the cooking itself. Henry waxed enthusiastic about how, when eating true Chinese food, he can taste the difference between the flavors of a dish that is even an hour to a half an hour old. He said that you must always eat the food as soon as it is delivered to your table so that you get the full experience of what the chef (from Hong Kong) intended. (Of course when all the food comes at once and can feed an ARMY this is difficult!)

The Chef at Coco Garden, making everything fresh and made to order.

The best part was a game that Lieu and I created where I would guess what item from the menu I was eating and she would confirm or essentially just laugh at me, depending on my outcome. To be honest I did quite well! The laughter at the table, however, provided the last great seasoning to a perfect meal and I left feeling that, after knowing these lovely people for almost 3 years,  I finally really knew them and was on a path to understanding their world so much more. That, and a path to go jogging…..MAN THAT WAS SO MUCH FOOD!!!!

Cantonese Culinary Madness!

To Get to Coco Garden Resort Hotel head out Gate 3 of Kadena and head straight until you hit a “T” intersection to turn left on 329 (right after the big J/A) and head toward Ishikawa. In around 8ish km you will hit a small bypass and you will turn left and then immediately right to take that over the 329. Drive around 400 m and then veer slightly right. Another 300 m will take you to “Hill House.” Turn left and you will see a sign for Coco Garden. Park to the right where the big old “P” sign is and walk on through. OR….just put their phone number into your GPS or iPhone map. 098-965-1000 or visit them at http://www.cocogarden.com/

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Fry It Up!

Life on Okinawa is amazing, especially from a foodie point of view, and most of the time I feel I can have it all when I want it…even if it takes some serious foraging through markets and Japanese restaurant guidebooks. One thing I have missed dearly, however, is a good old fashion English Breakfast Fry-up.

Behold! The reason the British were once a Superpower!

Now I have spent a lot of time living in, traveling around and missing my beloved Britain, and a great deal of culture has rubbed off on me. Non-Anglo-ish friends laugh at my usage of the words like “loo,” “queue,” and “tom-AH-toes.” My husband, the night he met me, thought I was insanely affected because, when I have a few too many, my stupid fake British accent actually inadvertently pops out like Madonna at an awards show. I love British TV…well who doesn’t? I am a FEVERISH football fan (not throwball, you American muppets!) and can pour, pound and get snooty about a pint as good as the next bloke or bird. And contrary to popular opinion, I think English cuisine is fantastic. It is warm, hearty and sticks to your ribs. Consider this…America’s favorite foods on Thanksgiving and Christmas…the turkey and gravy, the potatoes, the stuffing….this, inevitably, is all based on English traditions that were brought over and cultivated. I love this, and heading the list of satisfying comfort food to emerge from this cold gray-green island is the stout and hearty Full English Breakfast, or “fry-up.”

I actually can’t recall my first fry-up. I think I was 18 and in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but I can’t be sure. I do have loads of memories around them though. I remember my first apartment in London, just after 9/11. It was in Bayswater, a dive of a bedsit on the first floor, with wallpaper that was very, very pre-Blitz. The landlady included breakfast in the rent, and as a starving actress who wasn’t sure which end was up, this was amazing. She fried up eggs and streaky bacon, ham, beans, blood puddings and toast with mushrooms and gorgeous tomatoes. It kept me going all day!

Another great memory is taking my husband for his first fry-up…this was technically called “Irish Breakfast,” but it’s essentially the same, just served in an Irish pub in the East Village of NYC. He had never witnessed the glory of so much rib-sticking food at one breakfast sitting and perhaps because  I brought him there after making him get up at 7:30 in the morning to watch an Arsenal game at our local football pub and had henceforth been knocking back Smithwick’s, he fell in love with it!

So a few days ago, both of us having a massive craving and with no pubs open for lunch and an impending typhoon, I decided to try my hand at a fry-up all on my ownsome. What really blew my mind was that, aside from the baked beans, which I had to get on a military base, I was able to procure everything I needed locally and pretty much organically. This makes the idea of a fry-up a little bit more heart friendly…sorta. Well….you can pretend.

Eggs, mushrooms, beans, bread, cheddar, bacon, sausage, “butter,” tomatoes and of course the obligatory Bloody Mary to drink whilst cooking.

So I achieved the most beautiful cherry tomatoes, so red they could be made of rubies. Traditionally, a plum tomato, or a beef steak is used, but these looked luscious and I had to have them!

Tomato Rubies!

I bought a variety of sumptuous Japanese mushroom in place of the usual button or cremini mushroom, again because I was searching for the best produce possible at my local farmer’s market.

Fresh baked bread.

Myself and the Amazing Vic in our heyday in London!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For bread, naturally I slipped happily into my favorite bakery, sniffed around the fresh baked bread and discovered a beautiful loaf of what we would call in England “brown bread,” which is essentially whole wheat bread. But THIS was lovely, fresh and smelling radiant. This would be used for my amazing “Beans on Toast,” a special version of this Brit student’s food my dear friend Vic taught me when we were both pretty much homeless and sharing the living room floor of her brother’s house and trying to find our place in London. She taught me that the secret to a great “beans on toast” is to add Irish Cheddar to the beans. Simple, easy and AMAZINGLY delicious!

We found locally cut fresh streaky bacon, which is what Americans would just call bacon. And I opted for local sausages, which turned out to be phenomenally tasty. No surprise there. The Okinawans do pork like the french do cheese and the Koreans do dog. After a massive search I found Irish Cheddar and of course I bought eggs that had just been laid, because I can and will. It just tastes freaking WONDERFUL!

And thus, with the typhoon raging outside, I set to work recreating, in a slightly healthier manner, the fabulous Traditional English Breakfast…minus black puddings, because at the last minute, with the typhoon so close, I could not procure the blood used to make it! The range of emotions, memories and overall feelings of happiness that washed over me when I properly took my knife in my right hand and my fork in my left and cut into my perfect beans on toast was overwhelming. I thought of late mornings, walking down The Strand, with a head on myself like a drunken sailor. I thought of my friends in London and all of our fabulous struggles, exploits and adventures of our early twenties.

The London Gang…back in the day!

I thought of all the hooligans I used to hang out with at Nevada’s in NYC, watching footie, getting tipsy and stumbling up the street for a fry-up. And I thought of the future, and whether or not I would be returning to London anytime soon.

I consider myself a gypsy. Nomads, my husband calls us. Vagabonds and world travelers. No matter how much to you love moving on sometimes something gets into your blood and stays with you, follows you, adding to your caravan. In food, I am afraid, it tends to happen more often than not. The English (or Irish) fry-up is one of these somethings, and I am pleased to know that even on a small tropical island in Asia, I can still call it up once in awhile.

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Mushroom Soup with a Small Side of Rant

My husband is obsessed with mushrooms!  Any dish even sat next to a mushroom is his top priority (all the better if there is pork involved) and, especially living in Okinawa, or as I call it “Land of 1000 Mushrooms” it is really fun to substitute, add, play around with and alter great ‘shroomy dishes.

Some lovely ‘shroomy spread from our local market! And yes, this ALL went in the soup!

Such is the case with my spin on the Les Halles classic Mushroom Soup, adapted from my glorious and much wine-stained Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook.

Now I never follow a recipe. Ok that is not true. Occasionally when dealing with a Bourdain or Jacques Pepin or Julia Child recipe, I will go by the book. My first souffle, for instance. I played Julia on the Youtube to exact specifications because, hell, IT’S JULIA FUCKING CHILD! (She would not approve of that sentence!) You get my drift. Bow to the masters. I do not consider the masters Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee or most of those Food Network daytimers. I respect them, but I consider them contemporaries. I’m pretty damn sure I can do what they do. Too much bravado, you say? Nope. I learned from them all, and from greater chefs who have never had their own multi-million dollar franchise, tv show, etc. and were simply slogging it out in the bowels of great or sad restaurants but taught me how to, for instance, make a proper roux, decant an expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape, or the proper slicing of a glorious hunk of Stilton.

Again, as per usual, I digress.

Sooooooo Mushroom Soup. Tony’s recipe is great, awesome actually, and you SHOULD buy this book, but after a few times doing it his way, I had to experiment. It’s my nature with food. I feel to always follow a recipe is stagnant. I like everything to evolve and be so very much in the moment. What is fresh now? What is in season? What am I craving? Who else is eating it and what do they like? I rarely make the same dish the exact same way many times. This is why I will never be a professional chef and always envy and kowtow to the people who make my great dining experiences so blog worthy. They have that continuity. It’s amazing.

Anyway here’s my latest riff on the Les Halles Mushroom Soup. But please! Feel free to do whatever you want to it! Omit, add, play! This is a great comfort food and makes your house smell like a warm French bistro in winter! Why the hell I was doing it in summer on a tropical island? Mushrooms were in season at my local farmers market!!! Don’t ask me? I just cook here.

MUSHROOM SOUP

INGREDIENTS

The final product. Not the best pic, and I apologize. It just smelled to damn good to worry about pics!

9 tbsp Butter (Don’t wimp out and get margarine! That’s just gross!)

3 Vidalia Onions, thinly sliced

1 lb of various mushrooms of your choice. I would use whatever is available from your local. It will taste so much more intense and earthy!

8 cups organic or homemade chicken stock. (Keep some extra around to thin out soup if it is too thick)

Garlic, to taste. (I used 5 cloves but that is me!)

Thyme, Salt, Pepper to taste

A few sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Port wine. (Tony’s recipe calls for high quality sherry but I have not found that on Oki and always loved port sauteed mushrooms so that’s where I roll at the moment. Although by all means try the sherry. He uses 2 ounces, but for this recipe, which is doubled, use 4, or just don’t measure and do it to taste as I do!
Ok…So get yourself a large soup pot and add about 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and slightly translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic and remaining butter and let that all hang out for about 10 minutes. Glug in your chicken stock and chuck in the parsley and thyme and bring to a boil. Immediately cover and simmer on low for an hour.

A whole mess of yum just hangin’ out and sweatin’ together. Naughty, naughty veg!

After you have done your best to amuse yourself through the smell of yummy soup simmering away for an hour, remove the parsley, and let the soup cool for a bit. Then take a hand blender (or slowly, in small amounts in a traditional blender) and blend at a high speed until smooth.

I hand made this sea salt. I used it in the soup and it was exquisite! Check out my blog”The First Extravagance” at https://gratuitousgrub.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/the-first-extravagance/ to learn how I made my own sea salt!

Return to the stove, simmer, add whatever salt and pepper you desire and the port (or sherry) to taste. Simmer a bit more and then serve!

Enjoy, my friends!

Tashie

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TITS: The Elevating, Eco-Erotic Experience of Cafe Kurakuma

Rice paddies growing on the southeastern cliff of a Chinen Mountain!

There is something sexy to me about sustainability.

It’s kinda like, oh, I dunno, the difference between dating a trust-fund millionaire who is trying to be an actor or a hard working man who creates the best life he possibly can.  Any person, and very importantly to me, any restaurant that can boast complete sustainability on their local environment and community just gets me all hot and bothered. I HAVE to experience it!

Such is the eco-erotic Cafe Kurukuma, otherwise known as “Thai In The Sky.”

The back balcony of Cafe Kurakuma that looks out over the ocean. Note all the folks with their iPhones, taking pics!

“T.I.T.S” as I loving and laughingly now shall always call them…yeah, it TOTALLY just dawned on me….is located in Chinen, in the southeast, on the top of a mountain cliff overlooking the Philippine Sea.

A cliff you say?

When I say mountain, some of you in, say, Arizona or Wyoming, might laugh, but the ridiculously steep, “Okinawa-tiny,” winding road leading up the mountain makes you feel as if you are journeying to the top of the world! Let me tell you, the trip is a tad bit complicated, if not harrowing at times, but so is anything that is worth doing…except maybe watching the Travel Channel while drinking champagne.

So TITS…oh come on, you love it!….prides themselves on using only locally grown produce and specializes in growing their own herbs such as turmeric, lemongrass, mint, basil, cilantro….You name it, they are probably growing it in their extensive and beautiful garden, of which you are perfectly at your leisure to stroll the grounds. The menu reads as something of a “who’s who” of great curries of Asia. All are featured, from traditional Indian served with naan to the super creative Japanese, their specialty being luscious Thai. All of these can be ordered on a spice sliding scale of how much you want your bum to hurt later on. You can get mild, for you pussies out there…ahem…I mean delicate palates, or you can go all the way, “balls to the wall” and get “Thai Spicy,” which is NO JOKE. There are also a variety of other Thai favorites like Satay, loads of soups, and fish cakes with chili sauce. They offer an extensive array of salads that are artistic, verdant, and slightly changeable, depending upon what has been harvested. Desserts look amazing but if you want one, plan ahead and not order a lot because you will be unbuttoning your trousers! Drinks range from hibiscus, guava and lemongrass tea to of course Orion beer, and awamori, the most local of batches, naturally.

There is a strange calm that comes over you, after you have ordered and you stare out the incredible windows onto the azure sea, sipping guava tea and awaiting the inevitable.

So heda-foodies, here’s what I was so bloody lucky to enjoy in my experiences with TITS:

Sexy “THAI HOT” Green Curry. Ladies and Gentlemen, rev up your antacids!

We ordered the Red Chicken Curry and Green Chicken Curry, respectively, the Red ordered a level lower than “Thai Spicy” for posterity, and, of course, I ordered the Green as spicy as they would make it. These were so astounding! Thick with coconut milk and LOADED with chilies, mushrooms, onions,…all sorts of veggies! And the chicken..oh the CHICKEN! It was so amazingly moist and succulent, the kind that is just REAL chicken, not some pathetic, drugged up, mass produced, American assembly line tasteless, stringing wreck. Real chicken!

Robust Red Curry!

The Red has a slightly more robust depth whereas, as is typical with Green, there was a lightness, a white-green, basil-ish deception that hid the fact that it was going to destroy my intestines later on in the day…in a good way. Friends, this ain’t no joke, yo! Those of you who know me, know I like my food spicy. Tabasco’s mother’s milk. Salsa was my first food eating-out when I was 2 weeks old. Last summer I grew and consumed the fruit of half a dozen habanero plants that I seeded myself. I like it HOT. But they were not fooling around here. My mom always says that “It’s not hot enough unless you look like you are crying.” I was essentially doing a Chekhov play in the middle of the restaurant.

Luckily Jason ordered the Kao-Ka-Muu, which is a slow roasted, whole piece of pork, skin and fat and all!

Kao-Ka-Muu, a very succulent piece of meat, I dare say!

It was served with a hard boiled egg in an amazing savory sauce, with chili sauce for drizzling and topped with veggies and herbs. It managed to cool our mouths down as did my random salad, that at this point I had forgotten that I had ordered. It was herbaceous, surprisingly creative and cooling.

At last came the Tom-Yam-Koong, a soup that would make any great chef achieve la petite mort! It’s served on a little alter (in my mind) where flames are lit from below and lap up onto the covered clay pot. Once there was a good steam going we opened the lid as if it were the doorway to Elysium. And it was!

Tom-Yam-Koong. Orgasm in a clay pot…with fire under it’s bum, no less!

Fresh prawn from the prawn farm down the road, the most amazing collection of vegetables and herbs, smaller shrimp, and an orgasmic thick, vermillion colored broth that would blast the chastity ring off the most virgin of appetites!

As our meal wound down, Jason and I felt several emotions, and…err…feelings. There is the exhausted ecstasy of the post-coital, intense dining experience. There’s the sweating…those chilies, man! There is a complete self-satisfaction that you were there, in the moment, on a cliff, experiencing this lusciousness and yet whilst the food itself was sexy, our plans to go to the beach had to be postponed for an hour or two as we could not IMAGINE getting into our swimsuits, let alone actually swimming. Sexy TITS tummy! Ooooh yeahhh baby!

“Lord what fools these mortals be!” Shakespeare must’ve had some TITS in his time!

But fear not, gentle culinary traveler. There is plenty to do at Kurakuma whilst you wait to digest! There is a dinosaur and fossil museum. Oh yeah, I said that. It’s strangely and haphazardly shuffled into what can be only called a curio/antique shop. It’s weird, it really is. Next to ancient fossils are old Japanese Elvis records for 1000 yen. There’s a pterodactyl skeleton hung from the ceiling across from where local photographers and potters are pimping their art across from a WWII typewriter. Trust me. It is worth a good gander. If you’re lucky you might even find a naughty magazine from the 40’s!

After getting a TITS tummy, it is time for “Miracle Noni” and the lovely ladies at the health food store!

There is also a lovely health food store that sells Noni and other supplements, Okinawan  handmade jewelry, and local produce from the community. It’s run by two lovely, true salt-of-the-Earth, Oki ladies who are more than happy give you samples of the healthy goodies that have let them live, no doubt libidinous, lives for, like, 120 years!

If you can pry yourself free of their bright eyes and well-meaning salesmanship,  I suggest, before you head out, to take a little hike along the cliffside of the area. There is a path down from the “view” balcony of the restaurant, just down the old stones and to the right through the trees. It is incredibly romantic, just watch out for the snakes! Eventually it will loop round to the front of TITS and you will, no doubt, be ready to throw yourself into the next adventure of your day, whether it’s the beach, the Chinen Castle ruins just down the road (a nice little hike) or exploring the villages on the way back to your home.

Chinen Castle…under a little construction but still awesome!

If you enjoyed this amazing restaurant, I prevail upon you to, perhaps, stop along your journey when you see a farmer on the road selling veg (you will see many!) and get yourself some eggs that were just laid that day (YUM!) or get some fish from a fisherman and fry it up for dinner. And if you are not blessed to be living in Okinawa and cannot experience our TITS, I urge you to seek out your own….self-sustaining, organic restaurant I mean,…. ’cause if you have tits I hope you know where they are!

Walking through one of the local farms.

Look for those farmers markets, they usually have NUMMY food stands, and try to eat locally. It REALLY makes a difference in the quality of the food and you’ll be able to feel all warm and fuzzy knowing you’re supporting the guy who’s working hard to create the best life he can for him and the best food for YOU!

Love, Tashie

PS. Make sure you thank the chickens on the way out! You did just eat one of them!

Chickens from the farm, just down the road. “Sorry dude’s but your buddy was DELICIOUS! Thanksbye!”

Directions: Seriously, it’s fucking complicated! Just got to your iPhone Map app and enter the phone number 090-949-1189 in the destination (end) area. That’s what I do. It’s pretty damn good. If you don’t have a magic gadget here’s the address:

1190 Chinen Aza
Chinen, Nanjo, 901-1513

Other than that, I got nothin’!

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Four Meals in One: A Life Lesson in the Great Cornish Game Hen

We, who do not live in the third world, have been afforded the luxury of making big meals, putting leftovers in the fridge, forgetting them and throwing them out.

Evidently no one eats their vegetables!

According to a study done by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Consumers in North America and Europe waste about 209 to 253 pounds of food per person every year. The USDA says the average person in the U.S. eats 4.7 pounds of food per day. So that means the amount of food we each waste in the U.S. per year would feed us for about one and a half to two months (44 to 54 days to be exact).”

Yes, ’tis truth, dear friends and I know I am guilty of it. Yesterday I went to my local farmers market and loaded up on fresh veg! Beautiful cherry tomatoes, gobo, carrots, leeks, ginger, a giant daikon, cabbage, onions, lettuce, red and green heirloom peppers, you name it, it was all beautiful and I knew that I could use it for my meal plan for the week. When I got home I realized that I had to clean out the fridge to make room. I was horrified to find myself disposing of about 1/4 of the amount of rotten fruit, veg and restaurant leftovers that I was now putting in!

Suddenly I had a plan! I was going to utilize EVERY bit of the meal I was making, which was, incidentally, Dijon-Style Cornish Game Hens with Mustard Sauce. So I went about preparing the hens, which I thought I would try in the slow cooker. Usually I am pretty hen-traditional. The ingredients always vary, but I have never done anything but roast them in the oven. It turned out to be so intensely succulent and moist that when I lifted one of them out 8 hours later, it was literally falling off the bone. Not exactly pretty, but damn delicious! Naturally the recipe will follow.

Reconstructed Game Hens. I tried to make them look as good as they tasted but there is only so much you can do with super tender bird!

After our yummy dinner, we stripped the leftover dark meat and veggies into a tupperware with the leftover sauce. That would be Jason’s lunch the next day. The white meat I would end up turning into a yummy “Hen Salad” for my lunch. With the carcasses stripped, I added them to the drippings, white wine, an extra 4 cups of water and general leftover juices that were in the crockpot, along with the various assorted vegetables I left in there in anticipation of creating a stock. Left on low all night long, I woke to a satisfying aroma. I must admit that I then did strain and discard the chunky bits of the stock….the bones HAD been used after all, and I chucked a few of the innards to the kitties.

With my yummy Hen Stock sieved and replaced in the slow cooker,

Chopped up yellow onion, leek, scallion, daikon, garlic, ginger, heirloom peppers, gobo, thai peppers, cabbage and….uhh…other things that I can’t recall. All from our local farmers! (Extra peppers and cilantro in wait!)

I chopped up a bunch of the fresh veg that I had so impulsively purchased from my local farmer’s wife, the day before, eased it in the cooker as if I were introducing an old friend to a new one, and sat it there on low all day long. Thus, with very little effort and a lot of fun, old school-“use-every-part-of-the-animal”-thinking, came a scrumptious, soul satisfying and hearty dinner, made with not only the love and globally conscientious thinking from MY heart, but also from the usually discarded heart of these two fine hens!

This soup kicks ass AND will feed us for days! We can even freeze some for a quick dinner one night!

As a button on the end of this little experiment and before I get to the recipes, I would just like to add another quote from the UN study. “Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost, about 1.3 billion tons.”

I’m not gonna be preachy with you, I am not going to go on a rant about the poor kids all over the world, although those poor kids are in my mind and heart. What I am gonna say is don’t take your affluence and abundance for granted. I truly believe in the bad karma of waste. You CAN use leftovers from restaurants…hell, I mixed the leftovers from my last blog about “Bollywood Dreams,” into a fresh pot of polenta and ate on it for several days! It made a scrumptious lunch! And maybe just try to be a little more mindful of what you buy at the shops. Will you use it or will it eventually just become something else sent off in a garbage man’s truck? I ask you this as much as I ask myself. But don’t worry, friends. I only hold myself to these sorts of things!

Love and a Cornish Hen,

Tashie

RECIPES

DIJON-STYLE CORNISH GAME HEN with MUSTARD SAUCE

INGREDIENTS: Celery(Chopped), Carrots(Chopped), Two Onions of your choosing, Two Cornish Hens, Six Garlic Cloves, Salt, Pepper, 1 Cup of White Wine (Something good, dammit! Don’t ever cook with wine you won’t drink!), Dijon Mustard, Whole Grain Mustard, Cilantro, Butter, Sage, Agave Syrup (Maple will be good too)

Obviously you are going to put the veg in the crockpot, except for the garlic which you are going to insert in your hens’ bellies after you have rubbed some salt, pepper and whole grain mustard inside. Then rub your little birdies down with some of the salt, pepper and dijon and sprinkle with sage.

The nakedity of uncooked hens. They want white wine, the little lazy hussies!

Place them atop the veg, pour the wine around them and cook the hens on high or low until they are cooked through. About 6-10 hours. Just don’t pick 10 hours if you are putting it on high! Ooops, me! When the hens are finished, remove them to a serving platter and pour some of the liquid from the bottom of the crockpot into a saucepan. Add a little more white wine here if you like, I did! And let it reduce by about a third. Then add some more sage, a tablespoon or two each of both mustards to taste, and as much agave as you like as well (I think I did about 3-4 teaspoons) and butter. Whisk away until it thickens. You can reduce it as carmel-like or as thin as you wish, just remember that when things reduce they get molten lava hot so be careful tasting. In the end just pour the sauce on your birds and sprinkle with cilantro (or parsley if you prefer!)

I hope yours turns out less freaky looking but just as tasty as mine!!!

And what are you having?

LEFTOVER HEN SALAD

I made this for lunch and you can put it on anything! Tortilla, bread…oooooo a croissant would be yummy! I had none of these things in the house so I ate it with corn chips, but really it’s up to you! Quantity of other ingredients depends entirely on your quantity of leftovers.

I couldn’t be bothered to plate properly. I was HUNGRY and it was SO DAMN GOOD!!!!

Shred your chicken bits up with a fork and a knife. Add some plain greek yoghurt, a little olive oil mayo, some celery, onion, black pepper and I like a dash of hot sauce. Ok I like more than a dash. Dude, it’s all to your taste. If I had had dried cranberries I would have thrown them in too! That is the thing about leftovers! You can get soooo CREATIVE!!!

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I Dream of Bollywood, or “Oh Wow, Curry!”

How does Bollywood dream, you ask?

Let me tell you. It dreams in vibrant, verdant, unctuous, “holy-hell-that’s hot!” curries, naan and lassis, that is how.

Ladies and Gentleman of the table, I present to you, tonight, an extraordinary feat in culinary entertainment….or as my friend James describes it: “OH WOW…Curry!!!”

Oh Wow!

Jason and I have several favorite restaurants in Okinawa, but at the top of the pile is an Indian joint called “Bollywood Dreams.” Walking in to this second floor corner of Island Depot you are immediately greeted by Ganesh, photos of Bollywood stars and usually the slightly stoic yet friendly owner.  The place, itself, is glitzed out like some cross between a mid-eighties nightclub and an homage to all the fabulous Bollywood actors, all sumptuous and scantily clad, staring at you like you too could be that gorgeous by eating butter chicken.

Butter Chicken.

Oh YES.

Butter Chicken accompanied by Keema!

It is, perhaps, the most addictive substance on earth….at least from Bollywood. My friend Erin actually asked me if they put nicotine in it or something of that nature. I count myself as a good foodie-head, usually able to pick out ingredients from the pro dishes I consume, but Butter Chicken perplexes me. Perhaps that is why I love it so, for I am sure that there are less than 10 ingredients. Suffice to say the butter is ghee, which is Indian clarified butter, which they also smear all over the Naan (Indian flatbread) and makes this a decadent dish. And I can say it is orangish-red in color and tastes like you started making out with an devilish angel! I dunno what that means but you get my drift. It’s sexy, spicy and addictive as all get out!  When you get home, all of a sudden, all you want is more. This is a phenomenon I have witnessed with every person I have taken to Bollywood. I am a curry pusher. What can I say? “Substances like Spice and Salvia and Butter Chicken may seem harmless, but the US government has banned….blah blah.” Kicking a dead horse. You get it, it’s good.

But Bollywood is so much more than a vice-laden opium den for me. It really takes me back. Takes me back to one of my best friends, Reepu, who introduced me to Indian culture when we were the only two non-Catholics at Sacred Heart in 5th grade. It takes me to the Shivakumars, Hari in particular, who was a big old crush of mine! His family and my family were close so we would do so much together…try on saris, go to picnics, and eat! There have been so many Folks from India who have blessed my life and my palate. And loads of masochistic English people, too, because Chicken Tikka Masala is often referred to as “Britain’s true national dish”, notably in a 2002 speech by former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Yup. I was there on holiday when that happened. Of course we went out to celebrate and I, being a wiseass, ordered Phall, which is the hottest form of curry (invented, again by Brits with something to prove….oooo gonna get shit for that one too!) and contains a various number of hot peppers, including scotch bonnets! And naturally, in my constant growth from little gal to big old lady is the good old Taj Mahal. The Prescott restaurant, not the mausoleum. It changed hands several times but my mother and I never failed to make friends with the owners and I learned so much about Indian cooking, particularly Punjabi, from those experiences.

When I moved to England…well, every time I moved to England, it was as easy as calling a Pizza Hut, to get a good curry. I was really spoiled.

Curry even came in sandwiches in London, which my friend Vic used to bring me for our daily pint fest!

When I moved back to NYC I realized I had been having a love affair with Indian food all my life and suddenly I could find just a scarce and superficial version of the delicacies I adored, for outrageous prices! Where was my Chicken Tikka Masala? Where the Vindaloo? Where, dear Ganesh, WHERE was the bloody chutney??? New York, Flagstaff….a veritable wasteland when it comes to good Indian.

Then I moved to good, old Oki, and guess what? There are tons of Indians living on this island and the coolest of the cool opened Bollywood Dreams. I think, perhaps, we were there opening day, and have been returning ever since. We usually go for lunch, which is a choice of set menus, but the other night we hit up their massive dinner menu and ordered a ton of food that was spectacular.

Today was really super fun though! We brought my friends James and Erin to Bollywood for James’s first curry ever!

James and Erin try out some Kebabs and Curry!

I think I have spoiled him for life. All I heard from him through the entire meal was “Oh WOW!” A good sign, I suspect. We all luxuriated in the warm, happy comfort of good Keema, Tikka, Kebabs, Saag, Vindaloo, Seafood with Coconut, and GIANT slabs of Naan!

Saag, Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken and Kebab!

Chakra beers and white wine flowed freely and we found ourselves giggling through the heat and rice and enjoying every second of our brunch! This, THIS, is what good food is all about. Happy people, hanging out, trying new things, gettin’ a little tipsy and feeling totally, deliciously full, satiated and having a good gander at the Bollywood hotties on the wall and tvs!

Happy Erin!

Erin texted me later saying “Well I’m a total believer that after eating that I could do backflips off a trapeze!” I wouldn’t try it myself. Too much in my tummy. I am, however,  happy to be the ringmaster and invite you all to the Bollywood SHOW!!!! Oh and please go ahead and like them on facebook, because I sure do!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bollywood-Dreams/227086013971431

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Grace Kelly’s Crab Boil Picnic

Seafood.

Oh good lordy, SEAFOOD!

SEE? FOOD!

I live on a tropical island and so obviously the bounty of the ocean is pretty prevalent in the local cuisine, which is damn lucky for me because I sure can’t get enough of it! Yet it wasn’t until I actually moved to Okinawa that I began to think of seafood as anything other than a super-special, nice, dinner out. As I started eating at places like “Crocodile” and “Gen” on a VERY frequent basis and I spent more time on the beach, docks and in fish markets, I realized that, although I could walk out my front door and have someone else make delectable crab for me, it was high time, as a foodie, that I learned to do it myself!

Jason and I journeyed down to our favorite fish market, Tomari, down in Naha, and along with our usual fare of fresh Yellowfin, shrimp and swordfish (staples in our world now) I came across a tank full of Okinawan Blue Crabs and on a whim said “What the hell! I’m gonna make crabs!”I had this very overwhelming, romantic idea of a beachside picnic, me expertly and sexily making crabs like some Grace Kelly of the Hamptons, even though I knew nothing about crab-cookin’ or the Hamptons. Still it was a nice little desirable dream.

Now I am a HUGE crab fan. I am embarrassed to say that when they opened up the American seafood chain “Red Lobster” right here in Chatan, I just had to go for the complete ridiculousness of eating at, what in the states, is usually a sub-par restaurant where teenagers try to impress each other on a first date. I hadn’t been to one in a long time and wanted to see how it stacked up to my favorite places. In the end, all that mattered to me was the crab legs.
But I digress. This is not a review of freakin’ Red Lobster!

Beautiful Okinawa Blue Crabs!

So I get these BEAUTIFUL, snappy little crabbies home, intending to do a little picnic for Jason. Of course Okinawa had other plans. It began to STORM! Obviously there was not a beach, park or even my roof that would have allowed us an enjoyable picnic so instead I set one up on our living room floor and started in with boiling the crabs and making the feast!

On the menu: Boiled Crabs (obviously) with a Tart ‘n’ Spicy Remoulade and my special “Kickin’ Arizona-Style Polenta.” (Recipe to follow!)

Ahhhhh I gotta get him before he gets me!!!!

I was kinda nervous about the actual boiling of the crabs, but, with a little bravery it turned out to be a cinch. What was truly amazing to me was the massive change in color that occurs when cooking the crabs. I knew this, intellectually, but to watch the process of seeing these blue critters, that I see running around the beach, evolve into a sumptuous delicacy was truly awesome. I know I am going to get a lot of shit from my veggie friend Sara-Ema for that remark, but it was very self satisfying and worth it, none-the-less! The rest of the meal was just me winging it, creatively, but when you have knowledge of ingredients, that isn’t too hard either, and is the best part!

The Picnic!

Jason and I had a blast sitting on my grandma’s old Mexican blanket in front of the glass doors, listening to the gale outside and pounding the crap out of our dinner! Grace Kelly I may not have been, that night, but it was still kinda sexy! A bit primal. And in the end, it just goes to show you, you can accomplish your little desires with just a little bravery, creativity and a big Mexican blanket!

RECIPES:

CRABBIES!

Get a big pot and fill it up with water. Add a few whole cloves ( I think I did about 5 or 6 just because I love the pungent flavor! ) some cloves of garlic (again, as much as you like) two lemons (quartered and squeezed into the water) a couple of bay leaves, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 15 min. Add the crabs and keep boiling for another 15 minutes then remove them and let them cool. Voila!

Yummy Crabbies!!!

REMOULADE!

Mix the following ingredients together and serve cold!

1 cup of Greek yoghurt

1/2 cup of sweet relish

2 tablespoons of your favorite finely chopped onion

Juice of 1 lemon

Black pepper, to taste

Sriracha sauce, to taste

1/4 cup of mayo, (I use Nayonaise if I can find it, if not I like the Olive Oil Mayo)

1 tablespoon of ketchup

2 tablespoons of horseradish

2 tablespoons of good Maille or Dijon mustard

KICKEN’ ARIZONA POLENTA

La Polenta!

I like to use “Bob’s Red Mill’s” Polenta but whatever you can find. There should be the simple directions on the bag but the general rule is 3 parts water to 1 part dry polenta. Bring water to a boil and add sea salt and polenta. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently because this stuff will totally stick to the pan if you’re not careful. You want to get it nice and thick…around 20-30 minutes depending on your altitude. Now at this point you can add whatever you want, but for this particular recipe I added pepperjack cheese, a can of hot “Rotel,” three finely diced fresh Jalapenos, a diced habanero, a can of green chilies and garnished with chopped fresh cilantro!

So there ya go! Go have a crab boil picnic and best of love to you!

Tashie

 

 

 

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The First Extravagance

There is a lot of hype about salt now-a-days. Sea salt, to be specific. I myself use the intense seasoning in most of my cooking. And all these years, sprinkling away, I never really took much time to consider just how it is that they obtain the salt from the sea water in the first place. Luckily, I have some awesome friends here in Okinawa who took me on an adventure to accomplish just that!

Me and the Hladuns at Sea Seed. L2R: Jake, Drew, Mae, Warren and Moi!

Gala Aoiumi Salt Factory is located in Yomitan, in a really groovy area that has artisan glass blowers, potters and a coral farm called “Sea Seed” where they work at growing and replenishing our local sea life and keeping the island healthy.

Crab and Coral being specially grown at Sea Seed!

Now I love the whole concept of eating and living as close to nature as possible and it seems on Okinawa it is so very easy to do this, but never did I think I could make my own salt! Yet in true Oki fashion, the people running the salt factory were ready and willing to teach us the ancient art of salt-making.

“Factory” seems a little bit of an overstatement and upon reading the directions and being lead to little hot-coal hibachis with stone bowls atop

The start of the salt-making process!

and bamboo sticks as our only utensil we were transported back to the Ryukyu Kingdom and the simple, clean method that has been making salt for ages.

Warren shows me how it’s done!

Warren, my friends Mae and Drew’s eldest, had done this before and was eager to demonstrate his salt-making prowess. The process was fairly simple but required careful attention. The concentrated seawater is slowly stirred over the flaming coals. This seawater, called Nigari, can be mixed with soy milk to make tofu.

Makin’ salt!

The water eventually evaporates and leaves the lovely, minerally salt, which you get to taste with yummy rice crackers and then scoop into the handmade pot of your choosing. The attendants hand you an array of choices of ribbons and paper to seal up your little pot and off you go!

My Sea Salt Pot!

 

 

It seems straightforward and uncomplicated but I have to admit what I found so amazing is the fecund sense of earthiness you get from this unrefined act. To harvest the first luxury in dining (for I think salt is the first extravagance after simple bodily nourishment) on one’s ownsome, straight from the source, is truly learning a new level of authentic and natural living. The closer we come to the earth, the more we can appreciate her, and, surprise-surprise, it just makes it that much tastier!!!

For directions and more info check out their webpage! http://www.gala-aoiumi.com/english/index.html

The Beautiful Ocean Full of Nourishment and Delicacies!

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