Pork - Based ‘rafute’ A Signature Okinawan Delicacy

Pork-based ‘rafute’ a signature Okinawan delicacyWhen Okinawans say “shishi” (meat) they usually mean pork.
“From the skin to the internal organs, we cherish and use all parts except for its cry,” says Ayaka Yamamoto, an 80-year-old expert in Ryukyu cuisine.

Yamamoto says although it is hard to come by these days, it was once not uncommon to use pork blood in a stir-fry dish called “chi-irichi.”

“Rafute” is one of the most popular pork dishes of Okinawa. It was always included in courses offered by the Ryukyu cuisine restaurant Yamamoto used to run.

Following a recipe used in Tsuji in the city of Naha, a district where people once flocked to be entertained and socialize, Yamamoto flavors her rafute with white miso, a rarity in Okinawa. The use of peanuts and sesame also enhances the rich flavor.

“If possible, use meat with skin. It is nutritious and won’t turn out dry,” she says.

Pork belly with less fat, called “fishiharaga,” is suited for this dish.

The pork belly is boiled before being simmered so that it turns out tender and less fatty. If the soup simmers down too much, add dried-bonito dashi stock or water used to boil the pork. Strain boiled water before adding. The water can be used to cook flavored rice or soupy rice.

"Awamori" is essential to Yamamoto’s cooking.

“The rice liquor is an important ingredient that carries the flavor,” she says. “I use awamori made by a careful and reliable distillery.”

Since the sweetness of sake hardens the meat, use shochu if awamori is not available.

The dish is cooled to remove the fat from the soup. To finish, seasoning including sesame, peanuts and white miso is added and cooked over low heat so the meat pieces do not crumble. Other than tied kelp used in this recipe, vegetables of the season may also be used. Yamamoto suggests okra and string beans in the summer and burdock root in the winter.


Serves four:

300 grams pork belly block

Soup (1.5 cups each of dried-bonito dashi stock and awamori liquor, bit of salt, 20 grams white miso)

80 grams white miso

20 grams each of peanuts and white roasted sesame seeds

Bit of granulated sugar and sweet mirin sake

Some quick-cooking kelp (hayanie konbu) and dried-bonito stock


Boil pork belly block and cut into 2 cm-thick pieces.

Place pork and soup in pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until pork is tender.

Place pork in container and keep in fridge. Keep soup in another container and place in fridge. Once it cools and fat solidifies on the surface, remove the fat.

Reconstitute kelp, tie each piece up and cook in dried-bonito stock.

Grate sesame seed in mortar, add peanuts and grind. A food processor can be used.

Mix white miso, sesame and peanut paste, granulated sugar and sweet mirin sake.

Return meat and soup to pot, add miso mixture and cook over low heat so mixture coats meat. Serve in bowl with tied kelp.