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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The uniqueness of Ryukyu cuisine (Ryukyu is the ancient name of Okinawa, still often used, especially in a cultural context) must be attributable, first, to the historical fact that Ryukyu was once a tiny island kingdom maintaining precarious independence between China and Japan, and, secondly, to its geographical distance from the Japanese mainland and its position in the subtropics.

The influence of both China and Japan is clearly recognizable in the cuisine of Ryukyu as, indeed, in many other branches of its traditional culture. The great popularity of pork is one of the salient points of Ryukyu cuisine and must be a Chinese influence. The people of Okinawa eat not only the meat but also various other parts of pigs, and this forms a striking contrast to the mainland Japanese, who started to eat meat as part of their normal diet only a little more than 100 years ago and are still rather squeamish about offal.