In Okinawa, and on Zamami Island in particular, there’s a type of long, thin, edible seaweed called mozuku. (Actually I think it’s pretty widespread all over Japan – you can buy it in little packs at the supermarket – but it’s harvested around here). They come in strands, like slippery little noodles, and are often eaten cold in a rice vinegar dressing, sometimes with a bit of lemon, really refreshing. And good for you too: they’re a good source of fibre, and vitamins and minerals, especially iron.
At the far end of Zamami village, near a stream flowing into the port, is this little open-air mozuku shop called Wayama Mozuku. They’re only open for lunch, and they only serve a few things: Okinawa soba, with mozuku kneaded into the noodle dough, rice and pork (the rice cooked together with mozuku), and fresh mozuku in rice vinegar. Mum and I went there at lunchtime, in between a swim at Ama beach and another swim at Furuzamami beach, and ordered one of everything, except they’d just run out of fresh mozuku for the day, zannen. It must’ve been popular.
Even without the fresh mozuku the rest of the food was really good. My Okinawa soba, topped with sliced pork and kamaboko and red pickled ginger was deeply fragrant, the light, clear broth carrying the distinct umami flavour of katsuo (bonito), savoury and just faintly sweet.
The noodles were a light grey-ish colour and just a tad earthy-tasting from the mozuku kneaded into the dough, and their twisty-ridgy shape suggests they’d been hand-cut, none of this machine-made uniformity here. They were at once slippery and firm, with a good bite; the slightly irregular shape seemed to carry more flavour with each slurp. This dish, guys: a textural odyssey in your mouth.
The toppings were pretty standard as far as Okinawa soba goes, but the sliced pork was well-seasoned and a good balance between fat and meat.
On the table there were some bottles (one homemade, one commercially bottled) of Okinawan chilli vinegar, a recommended condiment for soba. I added some: it wasn’t too hot, just a little tingly and sour from the vinegar. Yum.
After this, mum got to talking to Wayama-san, the owner, who invited us to a party of sorts. But that’s a story for the next post. Stay tuned!