Because I had seen cherry blossoms at the park I decided to start my first day in Okinawa at Taste of Okinawa learning how to cook a couple of local specialties. It was a bit late for me to book tickets on most websites as they want you to book them further in advance then the night before. But on the Taste of Okinawa website I was able to book it the night before. I don’t suggest doing that unless you have to because who knows how busy they might be. It’s always best to book in advance.
Classes are available Tuesdays through Sunday. There are no classes on Mondays. There is a morning class and an afternoon class. The morning classes start at 10:30 am and end around 1:30pm. Afternoon classes start at 3:30pm and end around 6:30pm. Though they do suggest to be there 5 minutes early. The price is 6,500 yen per adult. (Cheaper for kids) and with a max space for 20 people.
Tuesdays through Saturday’s the morning set is:
- Goya Champuru- a bitter melon stir fry
- Miso Rafute – a sweet miso glazed pork belly
- A-sa-jiru – seaweed and tofu soup
- Sata-Anda-Gi – brown sugar donuts
Tuesdays through Sundays (and both morning and afternoon on Sundays) the set is:
- Okinawa Soba – homemade noodles in a pork broth
- Jyu-shi – almost like a fried rice with pork and veggies
- Mozuku-su – a sweet vinegary local seaweed
- Sata-Anda-Gi – brown sugar donuts
To book the class online you need to fill out the form on their website. If you have 10 or more in your party they request you make an inquiry first. Go here to make a reservation if you’re interested in taking their Cooking Experience class. It is in English.
I paid and thankfully it went through. I was nervous because I’d booked a tour before leaving for Okinawa and had to call my bank which is always nerve wracking since I don’t have an American phone number and that tends to freak them.
The class starts at the Taste of Okinawa shop. It’s located within the market. Because the market is big with many little streets crowded with souvenir shops and restaurants I highly suggest leaving early. It was suppose to be only a ten minute walk from my hotel and yet still, somehow, I was late.
After everyone drops off their things (though always take anything valuable with you) we headed out into the market. Because I was visiting during my Seollal vacation (Lunar New Year) it was also Lunar New Year in Okinawa so the market they usually use was closed. But we still got a market tour. I love going through market tours with a cook who knows how to pick the best of each ingredient and point out other special things in the area you might not know. Like the peanut tofu. We also got to try fresh fish cake and see what the fish looks like before it becomes a bonito flake.
I really enjoyed the tour.
I had booked the morning tour for Goya Champuru because I had had the Okinawa soba the night before. I had really wanted to work with and try goya or bitter melon because as a teacher when I taught cooking and the senses of taste, bitter always brought up bitter melon. But neither my students nor I really knew what bitter melon was. Now I know. And I know how to use it in cooking. For a lot of our cooking we broke up into teams and cooked together. So it was different from when I cooked in Thailand. But it would have been way too much food if we’d had cooked it all individually.
I think every class probably goes differently as well depending on the class and teacher dynamic. We made the Sata-Anda-gi even though online it says you buy them in the market. Our teacher also bought us other small things to try like Umibudo and the peanut tofu (Jiimamii Dofu) which was really nice to try without having to find it somewhere else.
I had a lot of fun with everyone and I was glad I wasn’t the only solo traveler in the class.
If cooking isn’t really your thing, or you don’t have time, Taste of Okinawa is also a craft beer restaurant and bar. They’re open Tuesdays through Sundays from 5pm until 11pm. From 5pm until 7pm they have beer and light foods, after 7pm they have a full food menu to go with the beer. They have five local beers on tap and usually ten other local/ Japanese beers by the bottle. Their food is all locally inspired and is meant to compliment the beer. Their tables, which we used while cooking are big communal tables which they say goes with an Okinawan saying “ichariba choudei” which means “we have met, and now we are family.” I’m not sure if they have a staple menu or if you’re in for a surprise every time you go to eat, but the staff was very friendly while we were cooking and I loved the atmosphere. If you like or love beer or just want to get to meet other people who are in Okinawa I think doing either the cooking experience or going to the restaurant after the cooking experiences are over would be well worth it.
If you want to make a reservation for the bar you can call +81-98-943-6313