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Vegging out: why consuming Okinawa-style is the wholesome choice | Travel

Travel is alleged to broaden the thoughts however might it additionally lengthen your life? Okinawa in southern Japan is known for the lengthy lifespans of its residents – often credited to the normal food plan loved by many. Local greens are believed to include giant quantities of useful antioxidants. Two of them are well-known: goya, or bitter melon, an astringent gourd that resembles a cucumber with pimples and beni imo, (purple candy potato), which is richer and sweeter than its orange cousin.

Okinawa map.

Many cafes and eating places typically provide goya chanpuru, or stir-fried goya with tofu and egg (from £three.50 to £7), wherein the goya’s bitterness is offset and complemented by the opposite components. Beni imo is trickier. It is broadly accessible on menus however often in processed kind with sugar added, in buns, muffins, novelty breads and desserts. A more healthy boiled model is obtainable in supermarkets and one or two of the island’s farmers’ markets.

A few eating places concentrate on longevity delicacies, going nicely past the large two greens. Emi no mise restaurant is in Ōgimi, a village within the north-west of Okinawa’s essential island. It is run by Emiko Kinjo, a nutritionist in her late 60s.

“I was greatly interested by the dishes prepared at home by local elderly people,” says Kinjo. “I have learned a lot from them.”


Meal that includes native Okinawa components goya and beni imo. Photograph: Alamy

The centrepiece of her longevity lunch set (£12) is a lacquered field containing six artistically organized dishes, largely comprising a number of objects. I relished the sweet-and-salt notes of silver-striped child herring introduced alongside tofu infused with seaweed. Among the veg – all grown domestically – my favourites have been a cluster of tender bamboo shoots, in addition to one other bitter vegetable and creamy tofu combo, this time that includes Korean lettuce (nigana). Kinjo makes use of native spices extensively, particularly powdered shikuwasa, or flat lemon, which is as tart as you would possibly count on.

In the center of the island, Kiyoko Touma runs Cafe Garamanjyaku. Her detox lunch set (£25) is a harvest competition of native natural greens. Around 20 small, beautiful dishes have been arrayed earlier than me. If veg is essential for Touma, herbs are paramount. “The secret of longevity is medicinal wild herbs,” she says. Her dishes characteristic yomogi (Okinawan mugwort) and chomeiso (long-life plant).

Eating for longevity is about the way you eat, in addition to what you eat. The conventional strategy in Okinawa is to main on greens, minor on meat and dine carefully: “Eat until you are 80% full,” is the mantra. And meals isn’t all the pieces. Elderly Okinawans are markedly energetic, socially and bodily. I can’t assure you’ll reside longer in case you eat Okinawan longevity dishes however I’m assured you’ll take pleasure in attempting.

• Return flights to Okinawa from the Japanese mainland common round £140. Promotional fares for foreigners can be found from JAL and, ANA, and low-cost service Peach


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