Okinawa soul food: we try Japan’s most epic pork and egg onigiri rice balls

A handful of feast, these rare treats are more like burgers than rice balls.

If you are looking to explore a very different side of Japan then you really must visit Okinawa. As the southernmost prefecture in the country, Okinawa is closer to Taiwan than to Japan’s main island, Honshu, and has different traditions, landscapes, architecture, and cuisine that make it a fascinating place to visit.

Our reporter Mai recently took a trip to Okinawa, and one of the first things she did after arriving was scout for local soul food, heading straight to a place that came highly recommended: Tamago Onigiri pork.

â–¼ The restaurant’s name is written in Japanese under a larger sign that says “Onigiri Breakfast”.

With a name that literally translates to “Rice dumpling with pork eggs“, there was no mistake about the specialty of Pork Tamago Onigiri, but when Mai arrived she discovered that there was a wide variety of rice balls to choose from on the menu. Most rice balls in Japan are triangular in shape, the ones here looked more like seaweed covered sandwiches than onigiri.

Pork egg onigiri is a local dish popular in Okinawan homes, but virtually unheard of in mainland Japan., so Mai was sure to get one now that she was here. The only problem was deciding what kind of pork to buy, but the choice was easy when she realized that the main store she was in, located in the American village of Okinawa in Chatan, had exclusive items not available in their other three stores.

She therefore opted for a limited edition ”Tacopeño“for 450 yen (US $ 4.19) and a”Tonkatsu TamagoWhich was also 450 yen. And when they got there they were wrapped in paper, which made them look more like burgers than rice balls.

Unwrapping them as gifts on Christmas Day, Mai was delighted to see that they really looked more like burgers, because they were way bigger than any rice balls she had ever seen.

With their mouth-watering content overflowing, the “Tacopeño” first beckoned to Mai, with its red-tinged contents hinting at the spice kick to come. Under the top layer of rice and seaweed was a slice of egg omelet, followed by pork in the form of Spam, a beloved ingredient in Okinawa that is used in a lot of local dishes, and underneath was a huge fried tomato that appeared to be twice the size of a regular tomato.

It was fresh and incredibly delicious, and when Mai added the small pot of salsa sauce to it, it added a taco-style flavor to the Tacopeño, giving it two different taste sensations for the price of one.

Then it was time to try the huge Tonkatsu Tamago (Tonkatsu Egg), which comes with not a but two tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork chops), with a slice of egg omelet, a slice of Spam, cabbage and a generous portion of mayonnaise.

It was so good and so bad for you at the same time, just like real soul food should, and while it contained all of the familiar ingredients you would find in a regular tonkatsu dish, the added addition of spam, eggs, and seaweed gave it a bold, punchy flavor that made it truly unique.

Pork Tamago Onigiri’s rice balls certainly live up to their slogan of a ‘freshly made one hand feast’, and Mai highly recommends you try them when you’re in the area. Not only are they a great introduction to local, family-friendly Okinawan cuisine, they’re a rare treat you won’t find on the Japanese mainland.

And if you’re looking to refresh your palate afterwards, you might want to try a coke in a limited-edition designer Okinawa bottle, or this original but tasty rice drink exclusive to the region.

Restaurant information
Pork Tamago Onigiri Honten Chatan Branch of the American village / 北 谷 ア メ リ カ ン ビ レ ッ ジ store
Address: Okinawa-ken, Nakagami-gun, Chatan Mihama 9-21
沖 縄 県 中 頭 郡 北 谷 町 字 子 浜 9-21
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day

Photos © SoraNews24
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