When I was on holiday a few months ago, I took a cooking class at Taste of Okinawa. I finally got around to writing a bit about it.
The cooking class took place in Naha, Okinawa. Naha is the capital of Okinawa, which is a series of islands in the south of Japan. These islands used to be their own kingdom before becoming what is now known as Okinawa.
The influence of the US — who attacked Okinawa during WWII — can really be felt when you’re there. There are several US military bases on the island and even in the food you’ll sometimes find a US influence with dishes like taco rice (my favorite!) or cans of spam in stores.
Taste of Okinawa is kind of a restaurant/bar that also offers cooking classes. The cooking classes are held in a neat cool space that has 2 big tables and a bar. It is located in a shōtengai, which is a covered arcade full of shops.
When we arrived we found out there were only 2 participants, me and a friend. For me this was great since this meant we would get all the explanation we wanted.
First we went on a tour of the nearby shops. We got explanations about specific ingredients and got to taste some as well.
I loved the fresh market with a wonderful selection of fish. My goal to eat a live shrimp was not fulfilled but the selection there was simply amazing.
During the tour we got to see how bonito flakes get shredded; we compared Okinawan spring onions to regular spring onions; and we stopped to eat some very savoury pig that reminded me of my trip to the Philippines.
If you are just visiting Naha and not specifically taking a cooking class you can visit the fresh market yourself, buy a fish, and have it cooked in the restaurants above the fresh market.
(The day after I did just that and ate an epic crab soup for the sweet sweet price of ¥1100 (about €8,5).)
After the shopping tour we went on to do some actual cooking. We made an starter course and a main course. The dessert we had bought at the market.
First we made pasta for our own soba noodles; and then got some practice cutting veggies with various cutting techniques.
This inspired me to get a really good chef’s knife (see: my blog post about Kappabashi).
We made tare (I knew this from Alex’s video on this) and a bonito-based stock.
With cooking there is usually a lot of prep involved and the class had a nice balance between having ingredients ready to go and having us as participants prepare some things ourselves.
After enjoying our dish, we got a neat bundle with the recipes for home use. The restaurant also has a craft beer selection so we hung around and enjoyed some beers before going back to our place.
All in all this was a really enjoyable experience, and an absolute recommendation to spend a relaxing afternoon when you’re visiting Okinawa.