So, I’ll make a confession: I listen to Japanese music, follow (translated) Japanese blogs, shop for groceries at the Japanese market, frequent the local Japanese convenience store, make weekly visits to my favorite Japanese-French bakery, and use Japanese apps on my smart phone. Now, I’m not Japanese, but part of it may be that Japan is one of those places I’ve always, sorely, wanted to visit. My obsession, in particular, is linked to the food.
It started with a Japanese drama revolving around a family restaurant that specialized in items like omurice, demiglace sauce, curry and katsu sandwiches. Then I would watch variety programs showing my favorite Japanese idol tastily slurping up a bowl of ramen noodles or digging into a carefully prepared specialty dish from a distant prefecture. I would view Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix, see delicious-looking Facebook pictures from a friend’s recent trip, or tune in to the latest Travel Channel or Food Network host looking incredibly satisfied with whatever they happened to be eating.
Of course, I’m interested in learning about Japanese history and culture as well as taking in the sights and meeting the locals. But most of all, I want to eat. Since a trip to Japan isn’t in my near future, the next best thing is a trip to an authentic, local restaurant. My college roommate (who happens to be Japanese-American and partially responsible for this preoccupation of mine) decided to take me to Habuya Okinawan Dining.
Okinawa is the southern-most island and prefecture in Japan known for its subtropical climate, rich heritage, diverse geography, unique culture, and longevity (the island boasts the world’s highest life expectancy and ratio of centenarians for its population). Part of the secret to their astounding health and endurance, in addition to favorable weather and positive lifestyle, is the cuisine, which consists primarily of ingredients like vegetables, fruits, beans, seaweeds, and seafood.
At Habuya, we decided to order more characteristically Okinawan dishes: a briny bowl of sea salt ramen with fresh clams and scallops (“It tastes like the ocean”), grilled eggplant cooked Okinawan style with sweet miso paste and pork, and grilled thin slices of savory pork belly with Japanese mayo. For us, this was just a small taste of a small portion of the land I’ve been longing to visit – a wonderful excursion to Japan without boarding a plane or crossing an ocean.
The inside of Habuya Okinawan Dining
Sea salt ramen
Savory pork belly with Japanese mayo
Where do you go to “travel without leaving home”?
Habuya Okinawan Dining
14215 Red Hill Ave
Tustin, CA 92780
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