“My Island of Pork”
Pork, for me is not just the “other white meat”. It’s absolutely my favorite meat… be it pork cutlets, pork chops, pork ribs, pork loin, slab bacon, guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto, speck, pig ears, chicharrones, juicy trotters, pork belly or even SPAM. There is nothing I love more than PIG.
Not surprisingly… my porcine passion is actually a birthright. I was born on Okinawa which is known as the “island of pork” and I don’t remember eating any other meat when I was a child. Fresh fish, yes (my grandmother’s beautiful steamed salmon), but pork was the only “meat” I recall, and when I was hungry and asked my big sister for “RED” meat, I was actually requesting my beloved SPAM*.
A few weeks ago, my husband Peter and I decided to try Shin Okinawa Izakaya, an Okinawan restaurant in Torrance, CA. I first read about it a few months ago and was hoping to try it with my sister, Janet, and her kids. With everyone’s busy schedules, it hadn’t happened yet.
Peter and I had an early evening reservation and as we walked in the door, the smells coming from the kitchen along with the Okinawan music instantly made me feel like I was back in Koza… with my sweet, little Oba-chan (grandma).
In the ladies’ room, there were huge, red hibiscus flowers painted on the wall. I had to take a photo of it for my sister. In Okinawa we had beautiful hibiscus trees on the side of our house and our mother used to wear the flowers behind her ear. Janet and I loved to pluck out the center stem piece and suck out the sweet juices. I thought the painting in the bathroom was a good start for the evening. “Ok they get it. Hibiscus means ‘Okinawa’.”
After sitting down at our table, we ordered an Okinawan beer called “Orion”. It’s funny how something as simple as a bottle of beer can make you smile. Three simple words printed on the bottle, “Brewed in Okinawa” meant that maybe I was a little bit closer to my island of pork.
Dinner was wonderful. Of course our table was monopolized by pork, but the best food memory that hit me was when I bit into a purple potato. That really took me back to my Oba-chan’s kitchen. I got a little teary and wished my sister was there with me, but then I remembered that Janet does NOT like pork. She loves Okinawan purple potatoes, seafood and poultry but she does not share my obsession with pig. I just laughed while I tucked into a bowl of delicious shredded pigs ear. I’ll bring her back next time for some tasty chicken skin or monkfish liver!
Fried Mimi Ga (Shredded Pigs Ear) $6.75
So-ki Soba (Pork Ribs) $8.75
Raftei (Simmered Pork Belly) $8
Dining date: 11/23/08