Health-food junkies can find heavenly eats at Green Leaf on Okinawa
By AYA ICHIHASHI | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 18, 2019
When the new year rolls around, many swear off junk food, resolve to lose weight or promise themselves, “I will eat healthier starting today!” This resolve might, or might not, survive the winter months.
When my body screams for something healthy on Okinawa, I turn to Green Leaf store and cafe in Yomitan, a village well known for its purple sweet potato, pottery and snorkeling at nearby Cape Maeda.
Vegans and vegetarians be especially pleased at Green Leaf’s lunch options.
On a recent visit, I took my daughter along because she loves vegetables. All the vegetables sold at Green Leaf are from farms that owner Ryoichi Uechi had visited to ensure their quality and adherence to guidelines on organic farming.
Quality control at Green Leaf goes beyond the vegetables. Meats, eggs, nuts, quinoa, rice, snacks, fruits and more are carefully hand-selected. They do not contain any monosodium glutamate (or MSG, a common flavor enhancer in processed foods) or other additives; the meat comes from free-range animals not treated with hormones.
The cafe offers bagel sandwiches (ham, smoked salmon, tempeh and vegan tuna) from 980 yen (about $9); additive-free hot dogs served on whole-wheat buns for 1,080 yen; salad bowls (beauty, detox, energy and customized) for 980 yen; my favorite, the Buddha bowl, 1,180 yen; and soy taco rice for 980 yen. These are lunchtime prices.
My daughter chose the molokhia noodle salad for 880 yen and I chose the Buddha bowl. My bowl arrived with organic whole grain rice (Japanese brown rice, or genmai) on the bottom, and topped with leafy organic vegetables, paprika peppers, dates, quinoa, walnuts, shredded carrots and cubed tempeh. The bowl was delicious yet filling, and I felt great after finishing it.
I usually don’t eat whole grain rice because it takes more steps to cook compared to white rice, and it is not as tasty. But the whole grain rice at Green Leaf is delicious and just right with leafy vegetables and tempeh.
Tempeh is made with soy and is a great meat substitute. I’ve had tempeh before, but it wasn’t as tasty as the tempeh at Green Leaf. The pepper slices, walnuts and quinoa add crunchiness to offset the sweet and chewy dates, and I kept eating until I saw the bottom of the bowl.
Usually I feel heavy, tired and sleepy after eating, but a Buddha bowl doesn’t make me feel that way. It left me feeling energized, and as if I had done my body a favor.
My daughter enjoyed her molokhia noodle salad topped with organic leafy vegetables, carrots, dates and pine nuts drizzled with peanut-ginger dressing. I had a bite and it was very refreshing.
On a hot summer day, that dish will be perfect. The molokhia noodle matches perfectly with the dressing and crunchy vegetables. You can also try their smoothies (from 580 yen) and an organic bagel with cream cheese (or soy cream cheese) to munch in the car if you miss the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. lunchtime.
After the meal, I usually browse around at the Green Leaf store next door to buy some healthy snacks. I got roasted organic hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and quinoa to add to my salad at home. I also got dried fruit and a cup of fresh peanut butter.
I highly recommend the peanut butter. Just fill a cup with freshly ground peanuts (1 ounce is about $1), and use it as a vegetable dip or spread it on morning toast. Delicious.
Location: 224-17 Senaha, Yomitan Okinawa 904-0325
Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Prices: Most lunch items cost less than 1,000 yen.
Information: 098-923-3870; Online: greenleafoods.com/yomitan. Free parking is available.