Goya Champuru: A Recipe for Longevity
By Catherine Ling - Tuesday, Jul 09, 2013
Some 20 students and the head from the Gerontology Master’s Program at SIM University (UniSIM for short) recently did a five-day intensive trip to Okinawa, Japan, to study the lifestyle and habits of the famously long-living elderly on the islands. Okinawa has more than 900 centenarians, one of the highest concentrations in Japan.
Food clearly plays an important part in keeping them healthy. And the one dish that kept popping up as their favourite and most commonly consumed was “goya champuru” — goya for bittergourd or bitter melon, and champuru referring to a stir-fry mix.
Bittergourd not only has vitamins but has long been used as folk remedy for ailments. It is believed to help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer potential.
But the Okinawans just really seem to love eating their bittergourd. It’s particularly popular as a summer food, and they say they can eat it several times in a day. Also of interest is their local tofu, called “shima tofu” or island tofu. It’s firmer and has a more pockmarked and coarser texture, but the flavour is more robust and complex than simple watery tofu. It also has three times the protein of mainland tofu.
Here, Emiko Kinjo of the Emi no Mise organic slow food eatery in Ogimi Village, Okinawa, demonstrates how to cook the goya champuru. It’s actually a very versatile dish with great room for improvisation. You can use whatever ingredients you like to the champuru mix – popular choices in Okinawa include julienned carrots, beansprouts, sliced onions and increasingly even spam (thanks to the presence of the United States military base)!
Here is a basic recipe you can follow (and adapt, if you prefer):
2 cups thinly sliced bittergourd
2 cups firm tofu, cubed or cut into rectangular blocks
1 handful of bonito flakes
Salt and soy sauce, to taste (just a pinch or dash)
2 tsp oil for stir-frying
1. Heat up the oil and stir-fry the bittergourd slices in a skillet over medium fire until they have softened, about five minutes.
2. Add the tofu cubes and stir-fry for another three minutes.
3. Toss in the handful of bonito flakes and mix well.
4. Add salt and soy sauce to season according to taste.
5. Lightly beat the eggs and pour it into the mixture.
6. Keep stir-frying until the egg is set. Serve immediately.
You can use either chopsticks or a spatula to stir-fry the mixture. It’s a really simple dish to prepare, and looks quite similar to many Chinese vegetable stir-fries. You can even cook other dishes while preparing this, as Emiko is doing in the picture.