So good, it might be worth travelling to an airport for!

Airports might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of places to enjoy good local food, but Japan’s airport food is actually pretty decent. In fact, our Japanese-language reporter and travelling foodie Kouhey came across one spot in particular that is so popular, it regularly has customers lining up outside.

The store in question is ‘Potama,’ an amalgamation of the words ‘pork’ and ‘tamago’ (Japanese for egg), and is located in Okinawa’s Naha airport. Those familiar with Japan’s southernmost prefecture will already be aware of the Okinawan soul food pork tamago onigiri, the famous rice balls made with Spam pork and egg, which Potama sells exclusively. Potama is often recommended as one of the best spots to enjoy pork tamago onigiri and tourists to the islands will often have it at the top of their ‘to-eat’ lists.

Kouhey was one such tourist — fresh off the airplane, he was ready to sample the delicious treats Okinawa had to offer when he noticed a branch of Potama in the domestic arrival lobby at Naha Airport. While eating some pork tamago onigiri was definitely on his itinerary, the sheer number of people lining up put him off slightly. After all, the time he would waste in line waiting could be better spent doing other things, like more eating.

So instead Kouhey popped to the Makishi Market branch of Potama, located in downtown Naha’s Kokusai-dori neighborhood.

▼ Makishi Market’s Potama. No lines here!

The word ‘onigiri’ is usually translated into English as ‘rice ball’, but as Kouhey looked at the menu, the onigiri on offer seemed decidedly less like a ball of rice and more like a seaweed sandwich. The menu also listed the twelve different onigiri that were on offer — a ‘standard’ onigiri, or a ‘special’ onigiri, with six different types of filling available for each.

Kouhey decided to get two different Potama onigiri — the standard Potama Spam and Egg with no extra toppings (320 yen [US$2.90]), and a special Fried Fish Tartar with Okinawan Shallots (480 yen), which is exclusive to the Makishi branch.

Kouhey went to the eating area, located opposite the main store, sat down, and waited.

Ten minutes later, his Potama onigiri arrived.

▼ The standard Potama and the special Fried Fish Tartar with Okinawan Shallots

By the way, this isn’t Kouhey’s first rodeo with pork tamago onigiri. As someone who loves Okinawan food, Kouhey often orders them when he goes to an Okinawan restaurant, or even makes them himself at home. But even an aficionado like Kouhey was amazed at how big Potama’s onigiri are — they’re easily the biggest he’s ever seen.

Kouhey decided to try the plain, topping-free Potama, with egg and Spam wrapped in a rice blanket with a layer of seaweed around the outside. As he took his first bite, he was hit with a wave of enlightenment. In a single moment, he clearly understood why so many people were lining up at Naha Airport.

The salty taste of the Spam went perfectly with the rice, and the egg was delicious and fluffy. Even without any additional toppings or sauces, this tasted incredible. It was easily the best pork egg onigiri Kouhey had ever had.

“How could anything top this?” Kouhei thought, as he unwrapped his second rice ball, the Fried Fish Tartar with Okinawan Shallots onigiri.

Even a seasoned foodie like Kouhey was skeptical about the unique combination of Spam, egg, fried fish and shallots. The concept sounded like a haphazardly thrown together mix of ingredients together that might not really go well together. On top of that, this onigiri was pretty hefty in size.

▼ Layer upon layer of onigiri loveliness

But all his fears were quelled the second he bit down into the rice ball, as miraculously all the ingredients made for a perfect match. The ingredients were similar to a breakfast Kouhey had been served in an Okinawan guesthouse in the past, so it was like Kouhey was eating an entire meal’s worth of food in one single bite.

▼ The crunchy fried fish and shallots gave the onigiri a really nice texture, too.

While Okinawa is home to a number of delicious local foods, Kouhey definitely recommends everyone try out Potama at least once. Kouhey loved it so much that he is already planning what he’ll order next time he visits, but as the only branches of Potama that exist outside of Okinawa are in Fukuoka Prefecture and Honolulu, he’ll have to wait some time before he can taste the porky treat once more.

Until then, he’ll have to find other ways to get his Potama fix… like paying someone to hop on a plane and deliver it to him.

Related: Potama official website
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