What to Eat at the 2021 Okinawan Feastival in Honolulu
Don’t be bitter, melon. You have two weeks to pig out on tasty takeout specials in honor of this year’s Okinawan Festival.
I’m Okinawan by marriage, which in food terms means the only Uchinanchu cuisine I knew before meeting my husband-to-be’s family was andagi. My father-in-law’s parents came from Okinawa. My mother-in-law was born and raised there and after she passed, it took me years to create an acceptable version of shoyu pork. My husband took on her famed poi andagi. But, for the rest of the dishes she used to make, I have to rely on the kindness of others. Or, the Okinawan Feastival.
Yes, the food arm of the virtual Okinawan Festival (which runs Sept. 4 and 5, so you can dance yourself out of a food coma by joining a streaming bon dance) starts Wednesday, Sept. 1. Twenty Okinawan-owned and Okinawan-supporting restaurants and businesses are offering specials in the first half of the month. You can find the full mouthwatering list here. Aside from the sparerib soup, shoyu pork and Okinawan sweet potato, everything already on my go-to list, here are some of the other items I find most intriguing.
Muchi (pronounced moo-chi) is the Okinawan version of mochi. Feastival head and Okinawan food enthusiast Shari Tamashiro says in Okinawa, the sticky treat comes in flavors including sweet potato and kabocha but, “because it is steamed in the ginger shell leaf, it has such an intense smell, I feel you can taste the ginger in it.” No one sells it regularly here and if you want to try the Izu’s Mochi special, you better set your alarm for early Saturday. Izu’s Mochi will have it at the Kaka‘ako Farmers Market for the first two Saturdays in September on a first come, first serve basis.
8 a.m.—noon, Sept. 4 and 11, Ward Village, @izusmochi
Goya (bitter melon) cold-pressed juice
I’m one of those who couldn’t handle bitter melon as a kid, not even when my parents smothered it in Chinese-style black bean sauce. Still, the idea of drinking it, especially when blended with star fruit juice as ‘Ōlena Café plans to do it, is definitely interesting. ‘Ōlena, or turmeric, is called ukon in Okinawa (‘Ōlena Café owner Jackie Toya’s grandmother used to farm the root there). Feel free to try the café’s ‘ōlena/turmeric/ukon drinks and avocado toast when you stop in.
Sept. 1—14, ‘Ōlena Café, 1631 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Suite #2, (808) 941-9342, and at various farmers markets, @olenacafe
Spam, rice and eggs topped with goya tempura ($7) or abura miso ($5), a pork miso paste, comes with a kamaʻāina discount at Pork Tamago Onigiri in Waikīkī. My husband lived on his mom’s abura miso when he was at school in Arizona, but I never had a chance to try it. Parking at the Royal Hawaiian Center is free with $10 in purchases, so I’ll be forced to buy at least two. It will be rough, but I’ll deal.
Sept. 1—14, note the business is closed Tuesdays. Pork Tamago Onigiri, Royal Hawaiian Center, 2301 Kalākaua Ave., Suite C311 B1, porktamago.com
Andagi Kokuto Ice Cream
Pieces of the signature fried doughnut plus kokuto, Okinawan black sugar, were so popular last year that Heihō House brought them back. Reserve your pint and don’t wait too long before digging in, as if you could, to make sure the andagi stays crispy with every sweet spoonful. And don’t miss the awamori cocktails, the only ones on the Feastival menu. “Their cocktails are amazing,” Tamashiro says. For those not familiar with the spirit, which has to be made in Okinawa to be called awamori, Tamashiro says it is distilled so it’s more like shochu than sake. Young awamori is treated like vodka, often mixed, while she says the aged awamori is more like whiskey, “a sipping drink with incredible flavor.”
Spam Andagi Pop
Seared Spam is dipped in andagi batter and fried for Hank’s Haute Dogs’ back-by-popular-demand pops ($5.95). Hank’s will not take preorders, so you will need to walk in. And remember, orders are capped at two pops per person.
It’s Uchina Time
Two of Beer Lab HI’s owners are Uchinanchu. The Okinawan Feastival special will be a hazy IPA with fruity notes including shikuwasa citrus. Move fast if you want to order cans to go; the local beer company’s specials can sell out in minutes, but Beer Lab HI also plans to sell it in its taprooms starting Sept. 3.
I love freshly made fishcake but am too lazy to make it. Okuhara’s is offering $5 off bags of its gobo tempura and vegetable tempura fishcake, as well as $5 off ready-to-cook miso butterfish. You must order by Tuesday to pick up on Wednesday or Thursday.
The Feastival also includes special dishes at Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai, Sakana Grill and Sakana Express, Scoop Scoops Hawai‘i, Sunrise Restaurant, Teruya’s Andagi and more. Here is the list. Find the full details, including when and how to order at hawaiiokinawans.com.
Soki jiru (sparerib soup), shiitake rice and Okinawan sweet potato haupia pie available for pre-order or walk-in. Orion beer on tap can be purchased to go.
Okinawan sweet potato manju, shoyu pork, smoked meat, andagi and DIY fruit pizza kits for pre-order.
Ige’s Mapunapuna/Masa’s Cafeteria
Okinawan yakisoba, andagi, andadog, nmu muchi available daily.
Masa & Joyce Okazuya
Oxtail soup, abura miso, abura miso musubi, jyu shi me, and pig feet soup for pre-order. Andagi is also available, first come, first serve, the weekend of the virtual festival.
Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai
Miso glazed Pono pork loin, garlic chicken, fish karaage, carrot shirishiri—an Okinawan-style carrot and egg stir fry—and Okinawan sweet potato for dine-in or to-go.
Sakana Grill & Sakana Express
$3 off nasubi champuru and $2 off shoyu pork.
Scoop Scoops Hawai‘i
Okinawan sweet potato and kinako sherbert for pre-order or walk in.
Andagi beignets and a hirayaachii burger, a double smash burger with layers of hirayaachii, Okinawan crepe.
Take-out containers of pigs feet soup, Okinawan soba, spare rib soup and nakami soup for pre-order. Sunrise is usually closed Sundays, but will open on Sunday, Sept. 5 in honor of the virtual Okinawan Festival.
One-pound containers of chilled shoyu pork, spare rib soup, chicken nishime, namasu, takuan and tsukemono for pre-order. Tatsuo’s is usually closed Saturdays, but will open on Saturday, Sept. 4 in honor of the virtual Okinawan Festival.
Regular, cinnamon and sugar andagi and Okinawan sweet potato fried mochi. Teruya’s is usually closed on weekends but will open Saturday, Sept. 4 and Sunday, Sept. 5 in honor of the virtual Okinawan Festival.
The Okinawan Festival also updates a list of where you can find Okinawan dishes throughout the year. Find it at hawaiiokinawans.com/okinawan-dishes