There are two types of “soba” here in Okinawa: Japanese mainland-style soba 蕎麦, made from buckwheat, and Okinawa soba, made from regular flour (and are also thicker noodles). Okinawa soba is typically served hot in a broth derived from pork, and typically topped with some sort of pork meats (there are various types which is for a later post). Also in Okinawa language, it is pronounced すば “suba” (not soba).
Mainland-style soba is what most foreigners are familiar with when they hear the term soba. A few places here in Okinawa do in fact serve up some pretty delicious homemade soba noodles; zaru soba or mori soba (or sometimes seiro soba) served chilled with a tsuyu つゆ dipping sauce (dashi and shoyu* base) or kake soba served warm in a tsuyu soup.
*shoyu 醤油: in Hawai’i everyone calls “soy sauce” by the Japanese name, shoyu.
One of my favorite places is near the university. It has a really nice name: 美波 “Minami,” which in this case translates to “beautiful (美) wave (波).” I suspect it may also be a pun, because “minami” can also be written as the kanji 南 which means “south,” and Okinawa is the “southern islands.” I usually order up their monthly special, which last month was a real treat– wild mountain vegetable tempura 山菜天ぷら蕎麦:
kake soba かけ蕎麦, perfect for chilly days:
Mushroom tempura soba きのこ天ぷら蕎麦：
In the picture, on the top, what is in the little cup? When you order cold soba, after you finish dipping and eating your noodles, the waitress will come by with a cup of そば湯 soba-yu, hot water that the noodles were cooked in! You add this to your leftover tsuyu to make a broth, and drink it. Delicious.
Here in Okinawa, we also have some variations on traditional mainland soba. For instance “sannin” soba. Sannin is the Okinawan word for shell ginger; in Japanese it is “gettou” 月桃. There is a famous little soba shop in Naha called Minosaku that makes this type of soba. I highly recommend visiting some day. The gentle fragrance of the shell ginger really went well. Next time, I hope to try their tumeric noodles (ウコン ukon in Japanese, うっちん ucchin in Okinawan).
Gettou soba 月桃蕎麦 served with a side tempura 天ぷら, look at that lovely green color:
Addresses of soba places I have visited in Okinawa (and would recommend!), all noodles are made in house:
Minami 美波: 〒903-0125 沖縄県中頭郡西原町上原2-11-1
Kazokuan 日本蕎麦 家族庵: 157 Morikawa, Nishihara-chō, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa-ken 903-0128
*This is a located in what looks like a family home in a back neighborhood. Lunch sets also come with soba maki (cut soba wrapped in nori like sushi!).
Minosaku 美濃作: 3 Chome-8-2 Kumoji, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0015
*Okinawan twist on mainland soba
Matsudaira 手打ち日本蕎麦 松平 (separate blog post here): 2 Chome-19-3 Minatogawa, Urasoe-shi, Okinawa-ken 901-2134
*Speciality Izumo soba
Esu no Hana 江州の花 (separate post here): 326-224 Taiho, Ogimi Village, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa-ken 905-1315
*Come here for local Okinawa-grown buckwheat soba and unlimited tempura!
Minatogawa 日本蕎麦南都川: 〒901-2134 Okinawa-ken, Urasoe-shi, Minatogawa, 1 Chome−5−11