Okinawa, Japan Feb. 28 Wed 11:57AM
Goya: The Okinawa Staple
Japan has many vegetable dishes that are hard to find in many western countries. A prime example of such a dish are goya dishes in Okinawa. Although also found in many other non-western countries, goya continues to be a prevailing staple in Okinawa. Okinawa food is known for being a bit different from Japanese food found on the main island of Honshu, but goya has been increasing in popularity in much of Japan. However, goya is still more locally known and prized in Okinawa.
Goya or bitter melon is a long, green vegetable characterized by its bumpy skin and distinct, bitter flavor. It resembles a bumpy cucumber and can be easily spotted in many Japanese supermakets due to its bright green color and distinctive look. While it can be somewhat of an acquired taste, many people eat it for health reasons and eventually grow accustomed to the bitterness of the vegetable. It is high in nutrition, and is promoted as being effective for those suffering from a heat related illness. Goya is sometimes credited for the reason people from Okinawa have such high life expectancies, and even in places and countries outside of Okinawa, it is used for medicinal purposes and its health benefits.
Goya is such a staple in Okinawa, that they are actually famous for it and have a day, May 8th, dedicated to it. The date chosen stems from the name Goya, where "go" can mean five and "ya" can mean eight in Japanese. In Okinawa, they create a variety of dishes using goya, and it is common to find it in many restaurants in Okinawa. Although goya on its own can be bitter, when paired with other ingredients, goya can be a unique and tasty dish.
People in Okinawa have mastered many ways to utilize the bitter melon into their dishes, as well as snacks and drinks, including a goya flavored soft drink! Perhaps one of the most commonly found and well-known homestyle dishes using the vegetable is chanpuru.This dish consists of tofu, egg, and sliced pork mixed in a stir-fry with the famous vegetable. Some other examples of Okinawan goya dishes are goya curry and goya stir-fry.
The people of Okinawa are proud of their Goya dishes!