What is Goya and How Do You Use it in Recipes? | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
a photo of goya bitter melon in a bowl

What is Goya and How Do You Use it in Recipes?

By Devy Jul 8, 2022

Have you ever heard of Japan’s famous goya vegetable?

For some of you, it may be one of these odd foods that you have never seen or tasted before. Even in Tokyo, it is pretty rare to find a goya dish or even goya itself from more traditional marketplaces. 

Goya has a pretty unique taste; however, it looks great and offers you a chance to try another excellent traditional Japanese food!

For those of you unfamiliar with goya, we have summed up everything you need to know about this interesting vegetable, as well as a few essential goya recipes!

What Is Goya? 

Goya is basically a traditional Japanese vegetable used for various kinds of dishes in Japan. 

You have probably heard by now that Okinawa is home to many tropical fruits and vegetables that are often not available in other parts of Japan. Goya is one of these, being a traditional ingredient used mainly in Okinawa in Japan. 

Goya, with all of its unique characteristics, is essentially a type of bitter melon with a longer shape and a bumpy texture on its skin, and its long shape and green color are similar to that of a cucumber.

Cut it into slices and throw some into a stir-fry for a touch of Okinawa! 

a photo of a goya bitter melon cut open

Image credit: Canva

According to traditional Japanese culture, goya is an ingredient with excellent health benefits. It is said to help lower blood sugar and contains a variety of nutrients that are beneficial to your health. 

Traditional Chinese and Hindu practices believed in using goya to detox the human body to prevent some illnesses, while in parts of Africa and Asia, it was used to help with childbirth as well as treating illnesses such as Malaria. 

Besides lowering blood pressure, goya is a source of nutrients that is rich in vitamins B, C, E, and K, which are very beneficial for the body. Even better, goya is known to be a low-calory food!

How to Use It

Since goya is a vegetable, you can easily find it in several Okinawan side dishes, salads, or as a complement to a meal. 

One of the most famous traditional goya dishes is goya-champuru, which is a stir-fry—an easy recipe using eggs and tofu. 

You can easily make it at home by mixing tofu and egg, or add some sausages to make it even tastier! 

In Okinawa, it is super common for kids to go to school with goya inside their bentos for a healthy lunch!

It’s important to remember that goya has a bitter taste, so it’s best to soak it in water beforehand to soften the taste and add some salt, sugar, or soy sauce to make it more palatable for children who don’t enjoy bitter foods. 

Another recipe you can make with goya is stir-frying it with chili and soy sauce. This is one of the more modern ways to make vegetable dishes that you can find in izakaya or similar places. 

All these easy recipes you can make at home! As long as you have goya, some minced garlic, soy sauce, and chili oil, you can make a tasty, healthy goya recipe for your loved ones. 

Stir-fry everything for a few minutes, add a small amount of water to let soften the goya, and add some seasoning to suit your tastes to complete the dish. 

a photo of goya chanpuru

Image credit: Canva

Why not also try this 5 minutes recipe using goys to create a tasty side dish?

Simply prepare a salad before adding the boiled goya on top, which will not only provide added health benefits but also give your salad a unique and different taste. This is a great option to try once in a while! 

Another way is to make a juice or smoothie with added milk or other fruit such as bananas to remove the bitter taste and add other sources of vitamins to your serving!

Make Your Own Easy Goya Meal at Home and Enjoy the Taste of Okinawan!

If you are visiting Okinawa sometime soon in the future, why not try finding some goya and making one of these meals for yourself? 

It can sometimes be found on the roadside of the main roads in Okinawa, in places such as Kokusai Dori, or you can head to a traditional market to get some. 

A local traditional Okinawan restaurant is also a great place to try goya! 

Let us know what you made with this unique and authentic Okinawan vegetable! 

Devy Mufliha,


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