When I first came to Japan, more than 30 years ago, I was astonished by not only how delicious the food was, but also by how much care is put into the meals served in Japanese homes. I have come to believe that the amount of love Japanese women put into their cooking has as much effect on their family’s health as the food itself. Unfortunately, for my husband and children, since I grew up in the States, with so many microwaved dishes and canned foods, I have yet to master the wonderful art of cooking such delicious, love saturated foods myself on a daily basis.
This morning, I woke to find that my friend Chapa had prepared a special dish from for me, reminding me of my husband’s Okinawan roots. Since he can’t be with me on this trip, she evoked his presence by preparing a very simple, home style dish from Okinawa known as Goya Chanpura. The best translation I can come up with would be Bitter Melon Stir Fry. The goya plant, from which this dish is made, has a beautiful yellow flower with a cucumber like fruit covered in pronounced bumps.
The first time I tasted this dish at my husband’s grandmother’s home in Nishi–Hara–cho, I was struck by how bitter it was and didn’t really care for it. Over time, however, I have grown to love it and crave how good I feel after eating it. My mother-in-law often reminds me that Goya is loaded with wonderful nutrients. It is said that goya can help prevent malaria and may even be helpful in treating HIV infection, as well as imporve immune cell functioning in cancer. All I know is that when I eat Goya Chapuru prepared by someone I love, I feel good in my body and deeply cared for.
I was especially grateful to be treated so kindly this morning after receiving the bitter news that my cousin Matt McNellis (43) had passed away unexpectedly. Today, as I savored my breakfast, my thoughts turned to Matt and the rest of our family. May he rest in peace. I wish I was there with them to prepare a dish filled with love that would help bring some comfort to his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews at this difficult time.
If you would like to try making some Goya Chanpuru yourself, here is a list of the ingredients. Click here for a video showing how to make it.
1 Goya – Bitter Melon (250g / 8.82 oz)
1 tsp Salt for Removing Bitterness from Goya
150g Onion (5.29 oz)
100g Slice Pork – upper shoulder part of pork (3.53 oz)
– Seasonings for Slice Pork –
1/2 tsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Sake
A Pinch of Salt
A Pinch of Pepper
1/2 Firm Tofu (200g / 7.05 oz)
2 tbsp Cooking Oil
– Condiments for Goya Chanpuru –
2 tbsp Miso
1 tbsp Sake
1/2 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Soy Sauce
Dried Bonito Flakes