Where to Find the Best Okinawa Soba—In Miyakojima
22 June 2015

When you think of a tropical island, it’s fair to say that steaming hot food isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. But on Miyakojima, one of the quintessential island dishes that simply cannot be missed when visiting is the freshly made, delectable Miyako Soba, or “Suba” as you are more likely to hear due to the island’s southern dialect.

There’s something quite remarkable about the taste of Miyako Soba even on a warm sunny day. Very similar to other island fare throughout the Pacific, locals swear that the added heat from the chili sauce helps keep the body cool in the summer. The simple, clean flavors are a genuine treat to the palate, and during your stay on Miyakojima, it may become an obsession to try as many bowls as you can, given the endless variations you will encounter as you crisscross your way through this wonderful little island.

 

Miyako Soba vs. Mainland Japanese Soba

The important thing to note about this local dish is that no bowl of Miyako Soba is quite the same, and each restaurant will have its own secret recipe. The foundation of each bowl lies in the handmade Miyako noodles whose origin dates back to the late 19th century. The classic toppings generally include tender meat, a slice of the quintessential Japanese fish cake, kamaboko, chopped scallions, and pickled ginger.

The noodle itself is a longer, flatter, thinner cousin of the mainland soba noodle, and is very different in taste and texture from the famous buckwheat soba eaten across the rest of Japan. In fact, Miyako Soba doesn’t conform to the traditional requirements in Japan of the minimum 30-percent Buckwheat to 70-percent wheat ratio, which has caused controversy over the years until finally being permitted to keep the title of “soba”, despite the differences. Due to different techniques in making the noodles they also differ in color, too. Think more along the lines of pasta crossed with udon, and you will get a pretty accurate picture of what Miyako Soba actually is in the noodle family. Of course, simply comparing Miyako Soba and the traditional mainland soba does neither of these dishes justice—Shigira Resort serves both traditional Japanese soba and Miyako Soba so that you can taste the differences for yourself.
 
Miyako Soba is usually served with a piece of souki (spare rib), rafute (braised pork), or even tebichi (pig’s feet). These are the freshest cuts of meat, often tenderized to not only melt off the bone but into the mouth as well. Whereas Kobe beef may well have the international recognition it deserves, Miyako beef is famous throughout Japan in a very different, more localized, way. While most beef in Japan is highly regarded for its “healthy” fat, Miyako beef is a far leaner, cleaner meat. No matter how you wish your cut, the beef is always tender, sitting in a very clean broth. And while the specifically Okinawan tradition of pig’s feet might not sound appealing, much like the love of pig’s ears across Okinawa, it’s something you really should try at least once during your stay.
 
For those of you who are new to Japan and its many ways of preparing and enjoying fish, kamaboko may be an altogether new experience for you. To besmirch a Japanese food by describing it as a rubbery piece of processed fish completely misses the tradition and subtlety sweet flavors this fish cake adds to a hearty dish of noodles. When you try your first bowl of Miyako Soba, be sure to not overlook this essential ingredient.

For the final touch of flavor, fresh scallions sourced locally on the island are finely chopped and added as a topping and are often the first aroma that wafts toward you as the steaming bowl of noodles and soup are brought to your seat. These spring onions also contrast the dish with a lovely sharpness, where mainland Japan often turns to rounder flavors such as sesame.



3 Best Spots for Exploring Miyako Soba

There are so many fantastic restaurants on the island that it is genuinely difficult to choose the top three, but here are our picks:

 

1. Koja Soba

Koja Soba comes highly recommended, especially from the island’s locals, due to their many offerings of Miyako Soba. The question is whether or not you have enough time on the island to keep going back to try them all? Koja Soba is only a 20-minute drive from Shigira Resort, so perhaps you just may.



 

2. Kuninaka Tempura

Kuninaka Tempura pairs Miyako Soba with a serving of Japanese fried magic. Not only are you treated to a lovely bowl of soba at 550 yen, but you are also served amazing tempura. The chefs work tirelessly in the kitchen as they present their local patronage from all over the island with their secret recipes. Kuninaka Tempura is located less than a 20-minute walk away from Painagama Beach and only a 30-minute drive from Shigira Resort.



 

3. Porto Fino

For more upscale dining, we suggest Porto Fino located on the first floor of the Hotel Breeze Bay Marina. Offering a variety of Miyakojima specialties in a buffet-style setting, Porto Fino provides an excellent opportunity to sample the flavors and textures of Okinawa all in one sitting, including Miyako soba.




One Final Miyako Soba Tip

If you have tried the three suggestions listed above and still find your craving for Miyako Soba unwavering, then it may be time to take your soba hunting to the next level by asking the almost always-gracious locals to clue you in on their secret spot for a great bowl of noodles. Because as you may not know, the best tasting places are often the ones yet to be discovered by the discerning traveler.

 

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