Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Okinawa Soba @ Mitsuwa SD's Kyushu & Okinawa Fair

Quickly dropped by Mitsuwa SD during my lunch break today for a tasting of an Okinawa Soba available at their ongoing Kyushu & Okinawa Fair. Started today and will continue on until Sunday the 19th. I need to say that I've been crazy busy this week and so this post will mostly cover the soba while I plan to do another more detailed post hopefully after a second visit sometime this weekend.

As a demo meal I wasn't expecting anything amazing like some of the bowls I've been drooling over recently on the blog Hwn Pake In Okinawa but I knew a tasting at Mitsuwa's fair would be fun and if you didn't already know, myself being part Okinawan descent, I almost felt covering it was... my duty?? So I'm here to represent!

Mitsuwa SD's 2009 Kyushu & Okinawa Fair, Okinawa Soba ($6.90, courtesy of Kayaba Restaurant).

Size was as usual on the smaller side as with Ramen tastings I've experienced here and the toppings of kamaboko fish cake and the meaty/fatty layered San-mai Niku with a touch of beni-shoga and scallions were present in a minimally sufficient quantity to fit the serving size..

The San-mai Niku (which translates to three-layered meat) had the expected light sweet soy sauce flavor but was surprisingly remarkably tender.

Honestly I've been used to a much more rustic version that I remember chomping on often at room temperature (during New Year's) but I felt this melty factor from most stewed (and guilty) fatty-pork was a given expectation these days. And come to think it is almost impossible for me to imagine when extremely tender pork would ever be a bad thing.. :)

The typical soup in an Okinawa Soba has a characteristic strong bonito aroma and flavor. The stock not surprising is made from it but with also pork and maybe seaweed. Tasting here, the good news was that if someone had told me the broth today was made from scratch I would have believed it, but at the same time the not so great news was that it was extremely thin. Much way too thin. But it was one of their very first bowls served immediately after opening so hopefully this had improved over the course of the day.

The noodles in an OS although described as "soba" does not contain buckwheat but made only with flour. From experience it tends to typically lack the chew or stretch of say a great udon for reasons what I can only explain as tradition(?). A more recent modern interpretation of this noodle may have more the "koshi" but I'm admittedly used to the slightly porous stuff that absorbs the flavor of the broth near the end of the meal which was the case here. :)

I'm definitely going to try it again if not for the novelty of the experience but for that tender san-mai niku, yum.

As usual my selfish wish list to cap, it would've been awesome if they went all out with a good chunky hunk of Soki (stewed pork ribs often with bone) for a much bigger impression of this one of Okinawa's signature meals. Tebichi (stewed pigs feet) would be another fantastic topping option where I would go as far as recruiting my mother for next year in helping out if need be.

Next just a few items quickly that are available to be purchased at the fair..

My No. 1 to try this weekend may be the Umibudo (or Sea Grapes).

The Kume-jima Raayu I can only say is an "inspired by the the original" Ishigaki-jima Raayu but I'm willing to try a small bottle. I'm curious if the Shima Togarashi (island hot peppers) does make the difference in umami which makes me want to drench the entire bottle of hot oil (of the Ishigaki stuff) all over my meal.

Next were all the yummy looking Kamaboko in the Kyushu section. I think it was ~1.50 for one or five for $6.50.

The bad food blogger that I am didn't take enough notes and I had ordered what looked good on the spot.

Later tasting, the best to me was the darker one in the middle that I believe was made with Iwashi sardines. I really enjoyed this which had a darker fish meat but sweet flavor and also contained sweet onions. The two longer stems to the right had crunchy Gobo root in them and pretty tasty while the triangular, almost tofu-looking one on top I would guess was a type of Hanpen and very smooth textured with an addition of green onions. The last to the left was almost like an Ganmodoki (but made with fish of course) with lots of finely chopped vegetables. All were great and I'm ready to try more! And who knew deep fried fish paste can be so diverse in variety and all so tasty?

As I said just a quick survey today and hoping to cover the many more items I've seen later this weekend! :)

Mitsuwa Market, 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd #119, San Diego, CA 92111


Anonymous said...

The noodles look good, pretty too. I just watched "Ramen Girl" yesterday and after reading this post, I'm dying for a bowl of noodle soup.

All the kamaboku look so good! When I was (much) younger, I could easily eat a bowl of ramen with just kamaboku in it. Wait, I can still do that now!

KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - Thanks for doing "your duty" and sharing with us!

meemalee said...

Re San-Mai Niku - the Burmese word for pork belly is "thohn-dhat thar" which means ... "three layered meat" :)

I can't wait to try Okinawan food!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Cabcooks, isn't it great to be an adult?? For better or worse you get to eat what you want! :)

Ha no problem Kirk! I think I wrote too much.. but I'm a nerd like that..

Hi Meemalee! Okinawan cuisine is definitely rustic. Hope you like it! I'm trying to find out why the meat is called "three"-layered and I'm guessing it's because it includes the skin, fat, and meat?

Roger said...

Ah dude! I could only make it to the Mitsuwa at Costa Mesa. Really wanted to try the Okinawa Soba and the Torrance location's ramen...

Dennis K. said...

Hi Roger, I wish I had a chance to try Tatsunoya too! The soba was ok, you probably didn't miss much. It was more a fun thing for me than anything.

Danielle Chavarria said...

Darn. I posted a response and it didn't post. Ok one more try. I recent moved back to the states from Okinawa where I lived for almost 6 years and I'm new to San Diego. Okinawa soba is my most favorite food ever. I see that you were at a fair but is there a place that actually sells Okinawa soba on a regular basis? I miss it so much. I tried this stuff that is soba here and it was just not the same. Very different than any soba I saw there. I realize you wrote this several years ago so I don't even know if you'll see this but if you do and you can help me find my favorite food that would be awesome! Thanks :) also you mentioned you thought it was too thin but in looking at the photos I see up there it looks exactly right. It is thin. Like water. And it is always served exactly that way. Fish cake, pork, chives and sometimes pickled ginger. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. I miss Okinawa. It's my very favorite place. Best food I've ever had.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Danielle, welcome to San Diego! I often dearly miss a nice scratch made bowl of Okinawa Soba too. Yes, this post was written a while back but I've since returned to the island a couple times. I do remember the broth at this fair's was even thinner than typical. But anyway, my more recent bowls had at least in Okinawa can be read by clicking on the Okinawa Soba tab. My last post was actually on one.
When I moved down to SD in the year 2000, there were a handful of places run by Okinawan ex-pats that served it. These days, they're unfortunately all but gone and you'd have to drive to Torrance/L.A.
Sushi Yaro in Kearny Mesa actually serves one. Sam had spent some time in Okinawa and serves a few dishes. The bowl wasn't the most authentic but it may help satiate in the meantime. Your other best bet would be to simply make your own from packages at Mitsuwa Market. The raw noodle nama-men packs that are in the refrigerated section aren't too bad, especially when in a pinch. Hope this helps any and take care!

Danielle Chavarria said...

Thank you! I didn't see the other posts. I will check then out! I found an okinawan restaurant in Tustin that serves it and Orion beer! I know it's an hour and a half from here but I am going to venture up there and try it. I love Orion beer as well! In the mean time I will certainly check out sushi yaro. Even if it's not as good it's still better than none! I would love to make my own. It's not something I ever learned how to make for some reason. There was an amazing noodle shop about 2 min from my house and they were so cheap that we just went there all the time and I didn't think about how sad I would be not to have them when I left and didn't learn. Sad for sure. Do you know of a good recipe? I will check out the marketplace. Thanks :)

Dennis K. said...

Yes, the cheap price you definitely can't get here, but that's true for most Japanese food. But anyway, good luck Danielle!