Feature

Sanjijā

Traditional sweets and snacks

There are a lot of locals snacks for you to try, many passed down from the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Many of them used to be for the nobility only, but can now easily be found at any good sweets shop.

Here are some of the most popular snacks for you to try while in Okinawa.

Kunpen

Kunpen, from Hokama Seikaten

Kunpen, from Hokama Seikaten

Kunpen were for long a delicacy reserved for Chinese envoys or sent to the Chinese emperor as a presents. They were also used as offerings to the kami by Kikoe-Ogimi, the Kingdom’s highest ranked priestess. Though it is still used in religious ceremonies nowadays, they are also consumed more casually, their peanut and sesame filling making them a favourite.

Agarasa

Agarasa

Agarasa, from Marukiyo Seika

Another popular sweet is Agarasa, a steamed sweet bread (akin to Japanese castella) that used to be made at home on holidays. Loved for its firm and slightly elastic texture, and its rich sugar cane aromas, it is today sold everywhere, from supermarkets to food stalls near the public market.

Sata-andagi

Sata-andagi (Okinawan doughnut)

Sata-andagi (Okinawan doughnut)
© Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau

Sata-andagi are sweet deep fried buns of dough similar to doughnuts, with a crispy outside and a lighter and cake-like inside. Made from sugar (sata), flour and eggs, the dough is shaped into a ball and deep fried (andagi) at low temperature. They are still sometimes made at home, but are also sold in all kinds of flavours.

Tempura

Tenpura

Okinawa Tempura, from Goya tempura

As strange as it may sound to Japanese food aficionados, tempura is one of Okinawa’s most popular afternoon snacks. The recipe is slightly different from its crispy counterpart from mainland Japan: the batter contains a lot of egg, making for a softer texture. Commonly used ingredients include white fish, squid, as well as more local specialties such as bitter melon, mozuku seaweed or purple sweet potato.
Consumed at any time of the day, it is a serious contender for the title of number one snack in Okinawa.

Peanut tofu

Peanut tofu © Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau

Peanut tofu
© Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau

Peanut Tofu is another unique Okinawan treat. Unlike real tofu it is not made from soybean but from peanut milk and potato starch.
Appreciated for its springy texture, it is often served with a sweet shoyu sauce.

Tannafa-kuru

Tannafakuru and sanpinchan

Sanpincha and Tannafa-kuru from Marutama Seika

The similar looking Tannafa-kuru is the commoner version: just plain flour mixed with brown sugar for an unpretentious treat.
The name, which translate to “black as Tannafa”, refers to the tan of its creator.

Probably the most consumed beverage in the prefecture, sanpin-cha is made by infusing fragrant jasmine flowers in green tea. Served hot in the winter and chilled in the summer, its low bitterness and refreshing taste makes it a perfect match for heavier dishes, or even chocolate or other sweet bites.

Shikwasa juice

Shikwasa

Shikwasa juice

Shikwasa (also called “flat lemon”) is a citrus fruit native to Taiwan and Okinawa. It is rich in vitamins and other nutrients, and has lately received a lot of attention for its health benefits.
Used to garnish a variety of dishes, its very sour juice is usually mixed with sugar and water to make the perfect summer drink.