Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Okinawan Cuisine at Nirai Kanai, Liang Court

Okinawa is Japan's southern-most province spanning hundreds of islands. What's interesting is that because Okinawa descends from the Ryukyu Kingdom, it's got a different history, different culture and even a slightly different language/dialect/accent than the rest of Japan. If you're interested, you can visit the Wikipedia page on the Ryukyu Kingdoms. For our purposes, though, we're primarily interested in the differences in the food!

Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant

We head down to the basement of Liang Court to try out the nosh served at Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant. Glancing at the menu, it feels remarkably like a Chinese-style "rice and dishes" menu where you order a few dishes to share among the table. Japanese stalwarts like Ramen and Stewed Pork are available, as are Okinawa specialities like thin pancakes and deep fried pork knuckle.

Although the restaurant serves free-flow hitomebore shortgrain rice, we decide to go easy on the carbs and instead go for Jyuushi Onigiri (Okinawan Seasoned Rice Ball, $6 for a pair). It's cooked in mushroom broth with liberal amounts of kale, pork, carrots and mushrooms. Pretty delicious and is actually flavored well enough to stand on its' own!

Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant Onigiri Rice Balls

A bowl of Aasa Jiru (Aosa Seaweed Soup with Tofu, $10) is up next! You get about 4 small bowls of dashi-based, seaweed soup from this big bowl. The Aosa seaweed was nice - wasn't too soggy nor too firm to be slurped up in the soup. Naturally it's a clear, light-tasting broth so if you're looking for strong, creamy angmoh style soups, better try something else.

Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant Seaweed Soup

Typically stewed/simmered pork like what's in our next dish is called Buta Kakuni; here it's called Rafutee. It's $13.80 for four large slices of simmered flavored pork belly in a wonderfully umami gravy. It's delicious, the belly isn't too fatty and the dish is served with some veg on the side - what's not to love? Well, if we had to nitpick perhaps some parts of the meat were a tad bit dry, but we wouldn't hesitate in recommending this dish regardless.

Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant Buta Kakuni Stewed Pork

Sooki also comes in two sizes - $10 and $6. The $6 portion pictured here comes as two portions of grilled pork rib with soft bones, served with lemon and salt on the side. You know, that cut of rib that comes with the chewable, edible bones. Here it's grilled until the soft bones are ... melting (for lack of a better word). It's a little alien chewing on warm melted cartilage and perhaps wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.

Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant Grilled Pork Ribs

At about $20-$40 per person, food's hearty and delicious and is decently priced, too. We'd definitely recommend coming here for the Japanese and yet not quite Japanese experience. Don't worry about reservations as there's typically little or no queue even on peak times. Open for Lunch and Dinner everyday. Non-halal.

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