Lotteria: A burger joint that will leave you craving a good burger


Chances are you’re not familiar with the fast food burger joint Lotteria. This is likely because there are only two locations on Okinawa. The fast food burger joint first opened it’s doors in September 1972 offering patrons in the Tokyo area typical fast food offerings including burgers, fried potatoes, chicken wings and chicken fingers.

Lotteria: Exterior Sign - Okinawa, Japan

Nowadays Lotteria can be found all over East Asia including locations in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and of course Okinawa.

Being that there are only two locations on island Lotteria isn’t one of the places I find myself near when the lunch bell rings so when we happened upon it today I figured we would give it a whirl.

The signage for Lotteria as well as the building housing this particular location look very much like one might have looked in the 70’s. Even the door handles have what I can only imagine is a long forgotten mascot of a happy goat or similar animal. The interior of the restaurant also echoes the 1970’s with colors, tables and chairs which feel very out of place in today’s modern world.

A unique feature of this Lotteria location is that there is no menu posted behind the counter. As an alternative Lotteria offers only a menu, similar to what you will see at other counter service restaurants here in Japan, at the register. Unless you are already familiar with the
menu this slows service considerably. On the menu is an assortment of burgers, including their famous shrimp burger who they are credited for inventing, and chicken options. Unfortunately for us a good amount of the burgers and sandwiches they offer were “out of stock” on this particular day. This left us with the option of ordering a double cheeseburger, hamburger or bacon cheeseburger. We decided to go with a double cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, some fries, soda and a milk shake.

Once our order was made and put on the tray we both found ourselves a bit surprised at what it was we had just paid ¥1800 for. The burgers were very small and the question “where’s the beef” came to mind. Being optimistic, after all this is a relatively popular burger joint in other parts of of East Asia so it must be good, we figured sinking our teeth into the burger would reveal a flavor that would blow our minds. Sadly this was not the case. The burgers at Lotteria are very similar to the burgers served in the inner city high school I attended. It’s hard to describe but there is an overall lack of flavor, lack of beef and lack of quality which was upsetting given the price. In fact there are better hamburgers and cheeseburgers at FamilyMart for ¥100. The fries were ok. . . . at least they seemed that way against the backdrop of a subpar burger.

Lotteria: Bacon Cheeseburger and Fries Set - Okinawa, Japan

Finally there was the milkshake. The milkshake was probably the best part of the meal, although that’s not really saying a lot. It had a simple milk and vanilla ice cream mix at the bottom topped with chocolate cornflakes, whipped cream and fluffy pastries on top. Although this was the most tasty item that we ordered it was relatively small offering about 2 or 3 sips of “milkshake” and a few bites of the toppings.

Lotteria: Milkshake - Okinawa, Japan

Although the food was not very good and the prices were way too high for the quality what really put the nail in the coffin for Lotteria as far as we were concerned is the upkeep of the restaurant. This Lotteria not only echoed the 70’s it also seemed as though some things had not been changed since the 70’s either. The bathrooms were a particularly good example of this with the toilet seat disintegrating and flaking away similar to what you might
see in an abandoned building. The booths and seating areas had a visible grime that had clearly been developed over the years. Metal joints and brackets were corroding and beginning to rust as well. This is relatively disappointing because it falls so far below the standard of what you would see here in Japan.

Lotteria: Interior Seating - Okinawa, japan

What I cannot seem to wrap my head around is why this Lotteria location is in such poor shape. It’s not as though the restaurant was empty. In fact it was packed with patrons and with it’s popularity through the country and all of East Asia how can it be that there are not enough funds to make this only freestanding Lotteria location in Okinawa up to par with the rest of the locations around the island and the country?

To find these Lotteria locations please check the link HERE.

 

 

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Okinawa Soba: A Beautifully Simple Dish


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Okinawa soba, or suba as it is called in Okinawa’s native language, is a well known dish produced in Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawa soba is made of a few simple ingredients including kamaboko (a type of fish cake), scallions, stewed pork belly, noodles and is garnished with beni shoga (pickled ginger). Although the dish is called soba the noodles in Okinawa soba are actually different from the noodles known as soba throughout other parts of Japan. They are not made of buckwheat and more closely resemble udon.

Although you can enjoy Okinawa soba at a variety of restaurants around Okinawa you can also make it at home with relatively no fuss and for a fraction of the cost. Here’s a simple guide to what you need and how to make Okinawa soba for you and your family to enjoy!

The very first thing you’re going to need to do is go to your local grocery store and pick up all of the ingredients for your Okinawa soba. I got everything that you are going to see today at Ginowan San A Convention City IMG_7256not far from the Ginowan Convention Center. As listed above you’re going to need noodles, broth, pork belly, fish cake and scallions. I choose not to put pickled ginger on mine because I am not a fan of it but if that little red stuff is up your alley go wild!

Once you have gathered all of your ingredients it’s time to start pulling the entire meal together. We do this by starting with the broth or 沖縄そばだし. This particular variety of broth or 沖縄そばだし came with about 4 packets inside and required about 300cc of water per packet.

(Each brand of 沖縄そばだし will have different directions. Simply check the back of the package for the number of cc’s/ml’s are required of water, 水, and you should be good to go.)

Once the 沖縄そばだし has been put in a pot it’s time to start thinking about the next ingredients. I prefer to add the stewed pork belly next. You have a great deal of options when it comes to the pork that you IMG_7258choose to include in your Okinawa soba. You can go the route of purchasing pork belly and stewing it yourself (sorry folks we’re not covering how to do that in this post), you can go the route of purchasing some nice high quality pork belly that has already been cooked and is ready to go or you can go with the low cost yet still delicious option. This is a package of precooked san-mai niku or 三枚肉 (literally translated to 3 layer meat). It’s a great alternative if you’re looking to make a small batch of Okinawa soba. 

I like to add the pork or 三枚肉 to the broth while it is warming up. It allows some of the delicious flavors stored in the meat to dissolve and make the broth even more tasty. It also helps warm the meat so so that it can be enjoyed when the rest of the dish is pulled together.

Finally it’s is time to add the noodles to the dish. Although you can purchase dry noodles and cook them I decided to go the route of precooked noodles. This is an easy way to make noodle dishes without having to IMG_7257worry about whether or not you’ve properly cooked the noodles. They can also be prepared very quickly and therefore cut down on the time it takes to make the dish.

After adding the noodles to the pot bring everything to a boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Finally when you feel as though everything has become the temperature of your liking it’s time to start plating your dish. First include the noodles followed by the pork and broth. This is also the time when you would garnish your dish with finely chopped scallions, the fresher the better, and also kamaboko or fish cake.

You’ll notice that I saved kamaboko for the very end. Kamaboko is a type of fish cake made from various white fish that has been pureed and combined with a variety of additives. It has a distinct fishy taste and is not for everyone. It can easily be left out of Okinawa soba for those who are not that adventurous but for those who are you can easily find it in your oden and processed fish section. It looks a little something like this:

From start to finish cooking this meal for myself and my husband cost a total of ¥500 and took me approximately 10 minutes from the moment I decided to cook to the second I sat down to eat. With a beautiful meal so simple to cook and inexpensive there’s no excuse not to give it a try!

 

 

Pasta-sicle. . . . . Because that sounds delicious!?


 

 

Here’s the thing. . . . . . I think I’m a relatively adventurous person. There are very few things that I won’t take a nibble of, take a picture of myself eating, write about and then post on the internet. After all I am a YouTuber and a blogger. It’s what I do. But Japan being what it is there are always times when you find something and think to yourself “should I put myself through the misery of actually trying this just for a couple hundred views”? In most cases my answer is “hell yeah” but today I decided to simply pass.

 

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I present to you the Pasta-sicle. This tasty treat was greater by the Garigari-kun line of popsicles which are popular here in Japan. They are known for having delicious flavors like ramune (a type of Japanese soda) and last year’s corn chowder flavor. This year, however, they kicked things up a notch with the exciting and intriguing flavor of Napolitan. For those who might be unfamiliar Napolitan is a popular pasta dish here in Japan. Consisting of ketchup, onions and green peppers it’s far from “authentic” but somehow works. . . . . at least in pasta form. Whether all those flavors would be particularly delicious all wrapped up into a popsicle is a completely different story.

As if that doesn’t sound appetizing enough this stomach turning concoction also includes a special treat! Inside are bits of tomato gelatin. Oh yeah.

Sadly for the viewers and readers out there who would have loved to find out what this tastes like at my expense I decided to give the new cookies and cream Coolish a try and leave this pasta-sicle in the freezer. Maybe next time? Until then I encourage you to get out there and give this a try. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought in the comments below.

Okinawa: What You Need To Know


Okinawa is a beautiful place to visit and live. However, there are some things that you definitely need to know if you are thinking of visiting and/or moving here. In this blog post we’re going to cover some of those topics that you need to know about and shine some light on this tiny little island in the middle of the ocean.

1. Okinawa is not a war zone 

The island of Okinawa was once the sight of the horrendous Battle of Okinawa during WWII. Many lives were lost and parts of the island were changed forever. Although today remains from WWII are still being recovered and US Military aircraft fly training missions in the skies the island is far from a war zone or combat area. In fact Okinawa is quite literally a resort island where millions of people each year visit the crystal clear beaches and immerse themselves in the unique culture.

2. Foreigners are welcome in Okinawa 

Being home to over 30 military bases and opening it’s doors to millions of tourists each year it is no wonder that Okinawa is a foreigner friendly place. In most cases shop keeps, business owners and restaurants do anything they can to accommodate foreigners. Even in all of my years here and all the off the beaten path places I have been there was never a time that I have been denied access to a place or treated particularly poorly because I was a foreigner.

3. Okinawa is Japan. . . . . . but it’s not

The history books and official documents tell us that Okinawa Prefecture, including Okinawa Honto is part of Japan. Trouble is when you tell someone planning to visit Okinawa that it’s “Japan” they can sometimes get the wrong impression of the island. Okinawa and Japan have some similarities. For the most part Japanese is the most commonly used language (although it is not Okinawa’s native language and some words are not the same such as “welcome” which we say by using the word “mensore” but other parts of Japan say “yokusou”), elements of everyday life are the same like the type of appliances we have in our homes and the styles of our home and some of the foods that are eaten. However pretty much everything else here in Okinawa is unique and in many ways different from other parts of Japan. We do not have trains or use mass public transportation other than busses which do not run on time and a monorail with very limited access. We do not have the same fashions or even pop culture trends. There is also a very different mentality down here in Okinawa and the way of doing things is very laid back.

4. There’s more than raw fish and rice on the menu

When I first told my family and friends that I was moving to Japan there was a lot of confusion and a lot of questions of one which was how will I survive on raw fish and rice. Although it seems like a sheltered comment there are actually a lot of people who are concerned about just this. The good news is that here in Okinawa, like most other places in Japan, there are more things on the menu than raw fish and rice. In fact it’s not uncommon to find pizza, tacos and even pasta pretty much anywhere you go in Okinawa. Even when you’re off the beaten path and not near restaurants convenience stores sell things like Cup Noodle and sandwiches.

5. Okinawa’s not so hot but very humid 

One of the first things that people say when you ask them to describe Okinawa is that it is HOT! Okinawa really isn’t that hot though. On the average year temperatures don’t get much higher than the 90’s which is, although unbearable for some, not actually that bad. The problem with Okinawa’s summers, however, is the humidity. When summer is in full swing Okinawa’s humidity will end up in the 90-100% range making it not only hard to stay cool but for some like myself hard to breathe. Although some feel as though this is unmanageable there are some things that can be done to make the summer months livable. . . . . . but we’ll talk more about that later.

What are some things that you think it’s important to know about Okinawa? Put them in the comments below and we will include them in our video of the same title!

Bistro De Mattaka


Finding a good restaurant for a date night can sometimes be a challenge in the south central part of
Okinawa. Between the large chain restaurants which are hustling and bustling with tourists and the smaller family friendly restaurants which don’t necessarily scream “romance” it can sometimes feel a bit hopeless. Luckily we stumbled upon a brand new restaurant (opened in March 2014) that is the perfect setting for a quiet romantic night.

Bistro De Mattaka: Exterior - Okinawa, Japan

The restaurant is called Bistro De Mattaka and is located on Route 58 in Ginowan. The small and easy to miss restaurant not only offers a fantastic atmosphere but also offers incredibly delicious cuisine at a surprisingly affordable price.

One of the first things that you will notice about Bistro De Mattaka is the elegant and simple decor. Creamy walls with dark wood floors and bar accented with bright white chairs give the space a warm and yet chic feel. Along one side of the building are windows adorned with postcards depicting beautiful images of France all the while French music is being played lightly in the background pulling the theme together.

Bistro De Mattaka: Bar Seating - Okinawa, Japan

Despite the French theme of Bistro De Mattaka the cuisine was not so focused. There were pasta dishes, various types of meat offered and even some favorites commonly found here in Okinawa. Although the cuisine was not what we had originally anticipated it was quite a pleasant surprise to see so much variety on the menu. Aside from food Bistro De Mattaka also offers a wide array of drinks (including alcoholic beverages) and has an impressive wine list.

Once you’ve taken the time and consideration to read through the menu, which features both Japanese and English, it’s time for the staff to take your order. As you might expect from any other restaurant in Okinawa the staff of Bistro Be Mattaka are inviting, charming and kind. They were even so kind to have the chef talk to us directly about the “chef’s choice” fish dish that we intended to order.

Bistro De Mattaka: Rear Seating - Okinawa, Japan

Bistro De Mattaka: Chef's Fish Of The Day - Okinawa, Japan

Bistro De Mattaka: Cheese Plate - Okinawa, Japan

Bistro De Mattaka: Lobster Dish - Okinawa, Japan

As good as the food looks at Bistro De Mattaka it tastes even better! Each and every bite was bursting with a delicious combination of flavors and spices all the while playing off the taste of the main ingredient not masking it. The flavors were also unique to anything that I have ever had in Okinawa before having no Japanese spin on any of the dishes that we tried. This was very refreshing.

Bistro De Mattaka is one of those places that I could continue on and on about. Between the feel which echoed sitting in a French roadside cafe and the food which leaves you wanting more the best way to experience this place is by enjoying lunch or dinner there yourself!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: 

Bistro De Mattaka is not a family friendly restaurant. This is one of those places you should book a babysitter for. Also please consider that Bistro De Mattaka takes Yen cash only at this time.

Yakisoba (焼きそば): So simple it’s ridiculous!


Yakisoba is one of the more popular dishes among foreigners here in Okinawa. 1525124_804517792896439_797604441_nThe reason is undoubtably because yakisoba is a pretty straight forward dish. In other words there is no element of surprise and you’re not likely to chomp down on an unfamiliar ingredient.

So what’s in yakisobaYakisoba consists of ramen style noodles, carrots, onions, cabbage and an optional meat of your choice. The whole thing is topped off with yakisoba sauce and can be garnished with a variety of other ingredients like katsuobushi, sausage and mayonnaise.

One of the things that I like about yakisoba is that it is simple to make, affordable and handles a few days in the fridge well making it the perfect meal to make in a big batch and enjoy throughout the week. It can also be customized to please even the pickiest of eaters in your family

Now that we’ve gone on and on about yakisoba let’s talk about how to make it so that you and your family can get in on the noodle action! As the title of this posts suggests making yakisoba is super simple. In fact for me the hardest part about making yakisoba is deciding whether I want to walk or drive to the grocery store.

Once you’ve figured out your preferred mode of transportation and arrived at the store it’s time to grab the ingredients that you will need. There are a variety of ways that yakisoba can be made but for the purpose of this blog post we’re keeping things super simple which means you’re looking for a whopping 2 items.

Item number 1 is noodles. There are a variety of noodles that you can purchase to make yakisoba but the type that I prefer come in a package that looks a little something like this:

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The reason that I prefer this type of yakisoba noodle is because it is cheap, coming in at under ¥200 per package, and easy to use. Each package includes 3 packets/servings of noodles and 3 packets of yakisoba sauce. This makes it relatively food proof and perfect for someone trying to make this dish for the first time. 

Item number 2 on the list is vegetables. As I mentioned above yakisoba usually contains cabbage, carrots and onions. You can go ahead and pick up each individually and cut down into bite sized pieces or if you’re in a rush (or lazy. . . . it’s ok , admit it. . . . we’ve all been there) you can pick up a bag of veggies that looks a little something like this:

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This little beauty is a bag of sliced vegetables that can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. Although the packaging sometimes varies they usually include the same type of mix which happens to be perfect for yakisoba (or a variety of other uses) including carrots, cabbage, onion and in this case green peppers. One of these bags, which comes in at under ¥200, is enough to make an entire batch of yakisoba.

At this point you have everything that you need to make a basic batch of yakisoba. However, if you want to add something like chicken or beef you can do that. You can also choose to put in as much or as few veggies as your heart desires. Be creative!

Now that you’ve checked out and are looking at your receipt in amazement because the grand total was under ¥500 it’s time to get home and make the noodle magic happen! As “difficult” as searching for the ingredients was turning them into yakisoba is even easier! In fact it’s as simple as putting everything in a frying pan, adding a few tablespoons of water and mixing until the sauce is evenly dispersed and the veggies are cooked to your liking. The only additional step is if you decided to add meat to your yakisoba in which case you want to cook that up in the frying pan first then dump everything else in. That’s it. . . .  you’re done!

Once you’ve got the hang of making a basic batch of yakisoba you can go wild and enjoy the ability to customize it however you like. You can add more sauce, add more veggies or even garnish with a variety of delicious options!