Jul 26, 2018
I love my local farmer’s market. At least I did until I see that they have started pushing this stuff:
So I get that this might turn into one of my most controversial blog posts, but only because Goya happens to be one of those things that people often passionately love or passionately hate.
As something found throughout Southeast Asia, Goya is not unique to Japan—but it is unique to a single prefecture in Japan. Although nowadays Goya is grown in greenhouses throughout the country, its traditional roots (no pun intended) are in Okinawa.
If you’ve never been to Okinawa before or eaten at an Okinawan restaurant, you should know that when you finally make the trip, you won’t be able to turn a menu page without seeing Goya on there. Goya is used as a garnish, a side, or even as the star ingredient of a main dish.
Probably the most famous Goya-based dish in Okinawa is Goya Chanpuru (ゴーヤチャンプル). If you ask ten Okinawans to list the representative dishes of Okinawan cuisine, this Chanpuru would be on all ten of them. It’s a stir-fry dish with some of Okinawa’s most famous ingredients, like Goya, tofu, and locally sourced protein (often pork). It’s one of those dishes that you have to try if you are ever in Okinawa because it is so representative of local flavors.
But how about the taste of Goya? Is it worth giving it a shot and/or adding it to your routine diet?
Goya happens to be one of those foods that is super healthy for you. Everybody can jump on that bandwagon, right? Well, it also happens to have a very unique taste. To me, the texture is like a cross between a cucumber and celery, and the flavor is pungent and bitter. Since I’ve been to Okinawa a few times, I’ve of course tried Goya Chanpuru. I’ve also tried Goya in a variety of appetizers, and in all cases, I just can’t get over the bitter, overpowering flavor. I feel like it takes away from the rest of the dish. Put another way, using Goya in dishes is kind of like rubbing Natto all over a meal—sure, it’s healthy, but all you’ll end up tasting is the natto!
Now I’m not alone in this belief, but there are certainly plenty of people who will think I’m crazy for feeling this way. So how about you all?
Do you like Goya? How would you describe the flavor to fellow City-Cost readers? Any other Goya-based dishes you’d recommend? Feel free to use the comments section below!
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).