Tender & Tasty—Premium Meats
Speciality meats can be sampled across the islands of Okinawa in a range of dishes and styles, from Okinawan soba to shabu-shabu and yakiniku
Okinawans generally have well-balanced diets and enjoy high-quality local meats with vast quantities of island-grown vegetables and ocean-fresh seafood. The most widely consumed meat is perhaps pork, and Agu pork which comes from pigs indigenous to the islands, is an Okinawan specialty meat. Wagyu cattle are reared for premium Kuroge Wagyu beef. Chicken is also widely consumed, and some of the breeds reared on the islands have special diets and are fed with turmeric, awamori lees, and other typically Okinawan ingredients.
Pork has been an Okinawan staple since the Agu breed of pig was introduced to the Ryukyu Kingdom through trade with China. For more than 600 years, these pigs have been bred across the islands. Agu pork is prized for its marbling, sweet flavor, and melt-in-the-mouth qualities. There are many ways to enjoy Agu pork, but to really appreciate the quality of the meat, try shima shabu-shabu. Thin slices of the finest Agu cuts are served on a platter for you to cook delicately in a subtly flavored broth. Agu pigs are precious and very little from these pigs is wasted. It is a common Okinawan saying that “everything but the cry of the pig can be eaten.”
Raised in the natural surroundings of the islands on feed containing local ingredients such as sugarcane, molasses, beer lees, soy beans, and pineapple bran, Okinawa’s cattle breeds produce premium beef with a rich umami flavor. Okinawan beef is rich in proteins and essential amino acids, and is generally lean with well-distributed marbling. Different islands and areas have their own local beef brands, and popular brands include those from Ishigaki Island and the Motobu area on the main island. One of the best ways to sample the local beef is at a yakiniku restaurant, where you can order small portions of different cuts and brands.