Some of the most unusual gyoza you’ll find in all of Japan.

If you’re looking to mark your visit to Japan with a tour of the country’s southernmost sites, then Ishigaki, in the island chain of Okinawa, has what you’re looking for.

Not only is it home to Japan’s southernmost branches of Family Mart, it’s also home to the southernmost conveyor belt sushi restaurant and, as it turns out, the southernmost branch of ramen chain Taishoken.

It’s right next to this ramen joint, however, where you’ll find another gem of the island, a gyoza specialty store called “Shima Gyoza“, which translates to “Island Gyoza“.

▼ The store is located near Euglena Mall, the southernmost arcade in Japan.

What led us to find this unusual gyoza joint was the big poster outside it, which was so colourful our reporter Kouhey initially mistook it to be an image of macarons.

When he realised this was an image of gyoza, he immediately seized the opportunity to try them, and when he stepped inside the store, he had to do a double-take again because what he saw inside the showcase looked more like fancy sweets than savoury dumplings.

Looking at the “島ぎょうざ” (“Shima Gyoza”) sign revealed five points of distinction, listed as: Beauty, Healthy, Tasty, Safety, Quality.

These points underlined the store’s fastidiousness to these quality hallmarks, with the main message being that these were “juicy and colourful gyoza made using Agu pork and island vegetables, carefully hand-wrapped with dumpling skins made from domestic flour.”

It was clear that these gyoza weren’t just a colourful gimmick, with quality ingredients and handmade care and attention behind them, so Kouhey wanted to buy one of each of them.

However, staff behind the counter told him that the colourful gyoza can only be purchased online and as takeout souvenir gifts, with a different menu available exclusively for dine-in customers.

After thinking about it for a while, Kouhey figured he’d be able to get the colourful gyoza sent to him back in Tokyo, but he might never have the chance to try the dine-in menu items again, so he ordered all three, which were priced at 500 yen (US$3.37) each.

He may not have been able to order all the gyoza he’d wanted, but at least he was able to order all the exclusive menu items, and he had a spacious place to eat them too, at the “Ishigakijima 730 Court” terrace in front of the store.

▼ After a short five-minute wait, Kouhey’s three dishes were delivered on a tray to his table.

Every dish had a distinctly quirky appearance, starting with the Chinese Cabbage-shaped Gyoza with Golden Salt Ponzu Sauce.

These steamed dumplings contained Shikuwasa (a famous Okinawan citrus fruit) sourced locally from Ishigaki, in the clear ponzu sauce, which needed to be injected into the dumplings with a dropper.

We popped one of the dumplings into our mouth, and found the texture to be delightfully chewy. This helped to spread the crunch of the island vegetables and the juices of the meat evenly throughout the palate, and the citrus elements helped to lift the flavour, leaving us with a refreshing, tangy aftertaste.

It was a delicious gyoza that raised our expectations for the next dish…

▼ …the White Gyoza with Ponzu Sauce and Green Chilli Oil.

“White gyoza” might sound plain and ordinary, but at this restaurant, where colourful gyoza are the norm, it’s actually one of the more unusual colours on the menu. Just as we did with the previous gyoza, we injected the dumplings with ponzu sauce from the dropper, but this time there was something else to add…

▼ …clear Ishigaki Jalapeño Chilli Oil!

The moment you bite into this dumpling, the delicious, flavourful juices spreads through your mouth, making it feel more like you’re eating a really juicy, meaty steamed shumai rather than a gyoza.

▼ The Jalapeño Chilli Oil isn’t overly spicy, but it does help to bring out the flavour in a delicious way.

▼ Lastly, we have the Beni Imo Gyoza with Red Onion Sauce.

These colourful gyoza contain a filling made with purple sweet potatoes, and not only do they look different to the previous dumplings, they’re the only ones to come without a ponzu dropper.

▼ That’s because these need to be doused in a special “Red Sauce”.

Popping one of these onto the tongue was a perfect way to end a tasty meal, as the texture of the skin was exceptional, bursting at the seams to allow the rich, meaty juices from the Agu pork to gush out over the taste buds.

▼ Yes, perfect.

Kouhey could’ve easily eaten 30 of these purple dumplings in one sitting, but alas, he made do with just three, because he had other places to visit on the island, including this bar run by the family of a famous singer.

So after being initially attracted to the place by the colourful visuals, this secret gem of a restaurant actually delivered bagfuls of flavour with its exclusive dine-in menu. It’s a place Kouhey thoroughly recommends visiting, along with this izakaya tavern, where you can try a special chilli sauce made with a mythical awamori.

Restaurant information
Shima Gyoza – ishigaki – / 島ぎょうざ – ishigaki –
Address: Okinawa-ken, Ishigaki-shi, Okawa, 5 730 NORTH COURT 1F
沖縄県石垣市大川5 730 NORTH COURT 1F
Open 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays

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