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A big bowl of Okinawa soba featuring simmered pork and chewy noodles.
A big bowl of Okinawa soba featuring simmered pork and chewy noodles.

Okinawa Soba: Great Noodle Soup from the Islands!

James LauJames Lau
Published Time
Posted on June 28, 2024
Modified Time
Updated last June 28, 2024

Okinawa soba is a noodle soup famous for its wheat noodles and rich, flavorful broth. This iconic dish offers a variety of textures and tastes, thanks to the diverse toppings and regional preparations found throughout the islands. Okinawa soba showcases the best of the island’s unique culinary traditions!

What is Okinawa soba?

Okinawa soba is a beloved noodle dish famous for its silky-smooth noodles made from wheat flour. Served in a clear, hot broth crafted by simmering dried bonito flakes and pork bones, the dish offers a unique taste that varies by restaurant. The noodles come in three main types: firm flat noodles preferred in the north, middle-sized wavy noodles popular in Naha and the south, and thin round noodles favored on Miyako Island.

A bowl of noodles from Okinawa featuring simmered pork and a boiled egg.
These noodles use wheat flour! Image via Shutterstock

Initially, it was a dish for the nobility, enjoyed by the rich during the Meiji period. After World War II, it became popular among ordinary people, leading to various regional versions. Today, Okinawa soba is a staple in the region, enjoyed by locals and tourists. It’s distinct for its broth, which can be lighter with bonito or richer with pork, and for its homemade noodles, which are sometimes kneaded with Okinawan salt.

How is it different from mainland soba?

Okinawa soba differs from mainland Japanese soba because it is made from 100% wheat flour. Unlike the buckwheat noodles of mainland soba, Okinawa soba noodles are thicker and chewier. The broth is also different–its main ingredient is simmering pork bones and dried bonito flakes, resulting in a rich soup. Mainland soba broth usually uses kelp and shiitake mushrooms, making it lighter in taste.

A plate of zaru soba "buckwheat noodles".
Okinawa soba is different from mainland buckwheat noodles. Image via Shutterstock

Another key difference is the toppings. Okinawa soba is often topped with braised pork belly, soft pork ribs, and pickled ginger, whereas mainland soba typically features more straightforward toppings like green onions and tempura. The unique combination of chewy noodles, rich broth, and savory toppings makes Okinawa soba a special dish that reflects the island’s culinary traditions and flavors.

Are there different varieties of Okinawa soba?

Soki soba is a popular Okinawan dish that features boneless stewed pork spare ribs (soki) as its topping. Soki soba became popular in the 1970s and is now a well-loved variation of Okinawa soba. The Soki meat is prepared by simmering it with soy sauce, brown sugar, and other local ingredients until tender, making it a perfect complement to the light soup and chewy noodles.

A bowl of soki soba.
“Soki” is pork spare ribs. Image via Shutterstock

Okinawa soba has many variations, each with unique toppings and flavors. Besides soki soba, other popular types include tebichi Soba, which features boiled pig’s feet, and sanmainiku soba, topped with pork rich in collagen. Each type of soba offers a different texture, from the soft tebichi to the savory sanmainiku. The variety of toppings and the distinct flavor of the broth make Okinawa soba a beloved part of Okinawan cuisine.

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Where can I enjoy Okinawa soba?

Uwachichi

“Uwachichi” is a must-visit spot, especially for their highly recommended “Aburi Nankotsu Soba” (grilled soft bone soba). This restaurant stands out because it opens at 10 am, earlier than most Okinawan soba places, which typically open at 11 am. The star of the menu is the “Aburi Nankotsu Soba,” but there are also other options like the “Uwachichi Soba.”

A meal from Uwachichi featuring Okinawa soba.
This version has pork ribs that are still on the bone! Image via Docomo Topics

In addition to the soba, Uwachichi offers a variety of desserts, including zenzai (sweet red bean soup). Uwachichi provides a welcoming atmosphere and is worth a visit for its early opening hours and highly praised soba dishes. If you’re looking for an authentic Okinawan soba experience with unique seating and menu options, Uwachichi is a great choice.

Giru Shokudo

Giru Shokudo is a local eatery frequented by residents. Famous for its “Maboroshi no Katsudon” (Phantom Pork Cutlet Bowl), this restaurant offers a nostalgic dining experience. The menu focuses on Okinawa soba and other traditional dishes, with options like soki soba, tebichi soba, and tofu chanpuru. The “Maboroshi no Katsudon” stands out with its half-cooked egg, making the cutlet tender and flavorful.

A bowl of noodles from Okinawa.
These noodles are chewy! Image via Shutterstock

Giru Shokudo opens at 11:35 am and is near Chubu Hospital. The restaurant has a cozy interior and even a karaoke room for gatherings. Another must-try is the “Eisa Bomb Croquette,” a crispy delight with a creamy, stew-like filling. Giruu Shokudo provides a warm and inviting atmosphere, making it a perfect spot to enjoy authentic Okinawan cuisine.

Wakigawaya

Wakigawaya, located in Okinawa City, is a hidden gem known for its delicious and affordable Okinawa soba. Despite its unassuming exterior, the restaurant offers a cozy and stylish interior with pottery decorations and seating, including tables and a counter. The restaurant even hosts pottery classes, adding a unique touch to the dining experience.

A bowl of Okinawa soba from Wakigawaya.
Wakigawaya’s bowls are handmade! Image via GO5 Okinawa

The menu at Wakigawaya features a variety of traditional dishes, with a standout being the “Mix Soba”. This dish includes an impressive mix of three-layered pork, soft bone pork, lettuce, kamaboko, and tamagoyaki. The soba noodles are flat and slightly firm, served in a light and flavorful broth. The combination of great taste, generous portions, and reasonable prices makes Wakigawaya a local favorite and a must-visit for all.

Why should I try Okinawa soba?

You should try Okinawa soba because this dish offers a unique blend of rich flavors, chewy textures, and comforting warmth, making it a must-eat for anyone visiting Okinawa! With its diverse variations and deep-rooted history, Okinawa soba satisfies your taste buds and provides a delicious look into the island’s food culture. Have you ever had it before? If so, how did you like it? Let us know in the comments below!

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