By Akira Suzuki
A Taste of Okinawa: Part 2 of 3 - Kachuyu
Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
Asatsuki (spring onion)
Caption 1: Pack the thick shavings of katsuobushi into the bowl. Feel free to consider using powdered or crushed katsuobushi, as it is commonly sold and easy to pack for the outdoors.
In our second installment of Okinawa treats, feast your eyes on kachuyu, also known as katsuoyu (fish flake soup) in the local dialect.
Nowadays, when folks come down with something, they quickly make their way to the drugstore to pick up a chemical concoction to make themselves feel better. However, in the early days, only after traditional remedies proved ineffective, would people head to the local pharmacy or doctor’s office. On Japan’s mainland, the common remedy for a cold was a mix of sake, egg and sugar served hot; something akin to eggnog.
Add the miso and shaved ginger, then top it off with boiling water. Put the lid on the pot and let the mix cook for 1-2 minutes or until the katsuobushi becomes soft. Some prefer to substitute umeboshi (dried plums) and soy sauce for the miso. Including some asatsuki adds a nice touch to the flavor, as well.
The Okinawa counterpart to the cure for the common cold is kachuyu. Old women in the southern islands will whip this up for kids with runny noses just before running them off to bed. Although families using this as cold medicine are not as common any more, some still use this as a cure for hangovers—me being one of them.
Kachuyu is a simple, yet elegant, miso soup which is easy to make. Add boiling water to a bowlful of katsuobushi, and then add miso, and you’re done. The ginger will spice up the dish and warm up your insides, as well as add to the cold-fighting potency of the soup.
The most important thing to remember is to use plenty of katsuobushi, almost to the point where you think you’ve added too much. You might be surprised how much katsuobushi it takes to add flavor, but don’t let that sway you; keep pouring it in the soup for the proper impact.
There’s an entire row of shops specializing in katsuobushi behind the public markets of Naha, and these peddlers will shave the dried fish to your liking. When you mention to a shopkeeper you’re cooking up some kachuyu, don’t be surprised when they wonder out loud how a “mainlander” such as yourself even knows what kachuyu is.