Japanese summer is sweltering and humid, but there are many delicious foods you can enjoy only during summer. These summer foods not only taste good but are also rich in nutrients – so they protect you from summer heat fatigue.
I will introduce to you some significant dishes in Japan that you should try during summers. Now let’s take a look at them!
1. Zaru soba (Cold bunk wheat noodles
Zaru-soba is cold Soba noodles served on a bamboo tray that looks refreshing and Japanese. You dip the noodles into the dipping soup that comes in a separate bowl and slurp up the noodles. When you have Soba at a Soba restaurant, they will serve Soba-yu (Soba cooking hot water) after you finish eating noodles. Soba-yu is nutrient-rich and also very tasty. You pour Soba-yu into your dipping soup bowl until the mixed soup becomes the best taste for you. You can enjoy the rich scent and taste of Soba with some spices in the liquid if you want.
My recommendation is Zarusoba with Tempura so that you can enjoy the cold Soba and the delicious hot and crispy Tempura. Tempura is also a Japanese dish of vegetables and seafood that are battered and fried.
Soba is rich in amino-acids, rutin, and Vitamin B1, B2. Soba is good food to protect your body from summer heat fatigue! Rutin helps lower blood pressure and straighten your veins. Soba also has an antioxidant effect that keeps your body young, which is very attractive, especially for ladies!
*Soba sometimes causes severe allergy for some people, so please make sure you are OK before trying them.
2. Somen noodles
Somen noodles are skinny noodles made of wheat flour that you dip into soup in another bowl and eat. They are mostly eaten cold during the summer period when people lose their appetite. Somen noodles can smoothly slide down your throat so you can enjoy having them even when you don’t feel like eating anything. It is also effortless to cook!
Nagashi somen is one of the Japanese summer traditions that is very fun to try! We usually use real bamboo pipes to flow somen noodles with cold flowing water. You have to catch them with chopsticks when they come down to your spot to grab your somen. When you pick yours, dip them into your soup bowl and enjoy them. When they use real bamboo pipes, you can feel the bamboo scent in your mouth, which is quite lovely. Nagashi Somen serves outdoor where you can cool down your hot body as well. It feels refreshing to have cold Nagashi somen in nature. It’s worth a try!
Recently there are many types of pipes such as plastic. You cannot feel the bamboo scent, but plastic pipes make it easier to have Nagashi-somen for everyone. You can even find Nagashi-somen home electrical appliances for families!
3. Hiyashi chu-ka ( Cold Japanese style Chinese noodles
Hiyashi-Chuka is chilled Japanese style Chinese noodles topped with colorful shredded ingredients such as cucumber, lettuce, egg, ham, tomatoes, and so on with a cold sweet and sour tasted soup. When it is sweltering outside, and you feel tired, the fresh bitter flavor stimulates your appetite, so you can still enjoy this dish. The noodles smoothly go into your mouth, so that is one of the reasons you would like them in summer.
The taste of soup and ingredients on the top are quite different from restaurant to restaurant; you can also find them at convenience stores. It would be fun to find your favorite one.
4.Zaru-Udon (Cold Udon noodles)
Zaru-udon is cold Udon noodles served on a bamboo tray with a separate bowl of dipping soup that you dip the noodles into like Zarusoba. It also looks fresh and Japanese as much as Zaru-soba. Udon noodles are thick noodles made of wheat flour. I also recommend cold Zaru-udon with hot and crispy Japanese Tempura.
Udon is more comfortable to be digested and contains less fiber compared to Soba. So it is converted into energy quite fast.
5. Unagi (Broiled eel)
Eels are quite rich in nutrients and have been famous summer food in Japan for a long time. Eels contain a lot of protein, Vitamin A, B1, B2, D and E, DHA, EPA, and minerals. We have eels to prevent summer heat fatigue every summer on a day called “Doyo no Ushi no Hi.” This day is different every summer, and sometimes it occurs twice a summer.
The primary cooking method of eels is glaze-grilled called Kabayaki. Glaze-grilled eels are soft and juicy inside with a little crispy outside skin. The sauce is soy sauce based, and it tastes sweet and thick. If you order eels at an exclusive restaurant, they will also serve a clear soup called Kimosui with the guts of the eel as the main ingredient. It tastes quite mild but also rich in nutrients.
6. Tako Octopus
Have you tried Octopuses so far? Lately, Octopus balls called Takoyaki have become quite popular so that you might have tried them. Octopuses are chewy and tasty. You might be addicted to its mysterious but excellent taste once you eat them. Other than Takoyaki, the primary way we eat them during summer is vinegar seasoned dish. We serve them with some seaweed and sliced cucumber. Having a very thin sliced octopus-like sashimi is also very good.
They are rich in Taurin that helps our cells work correctly. That is why Octopuses are good to eat when hot. In the west part of Japan, after the rice planting season, octopuses have been used as offerings to God when praying for a good harvest. After that, they have been eating octopuses.
7. Hamo (Pike Conger)
Hamo is a long fish like eels, but they are not as thick as eels. Hamo is often used inexpensive dishes in the west part of Japan, especially Kyoto, although people in other parts of Japan do not eat them as much. The fish itself has many bones, but cooks cut only bones without cutting through the outer skin so that we can enjoy the fish without being bothered by the bones. The taste itself is quite understandable. The most popular dish of Hamo is Yukibi (slightly boiled style), often served on ice. Then we eat Hamo with a dipping of Japanese pickled plums or Sumiso (Miso paste with vinegar, etc.).
I have introduced you to some typical Japanese summer dishes so far. There are a lot more I could not mention today. There are also enjoyable summer treats. I would like to introduce you soon. I hope you find your favorite summer food during your stay in Japan and enjoy and survive this hot and humid climate! Have a pleasant stay.
A real “love it or hate it” option, Goya is a famously bitter melon that thrives in summer. Although it can be grown across the country, it is associated with Okinawa. The crunch is its only real saving grace (unless you love bitter, which some do), and it is in stir-fries, salads, and the special Okinawan dish of Goya-Champuru, a mix of tofu, bean sprouts, egg, pork, and Goya. As it is cooked for longer to remove the bitterness, this dish is an excellent introduction to Goya as well as Okinawan cuisine.
There are benefits to eating this bitter fiend, though; it is anti-aging properties as well as in packages with vitamins (B1, B2, B3, C, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron…the list goes on). It’s considered especially useful for getting rid of kidney stones, lowering blood pressure, and curing hangovers!
9. Kakigori Desserts)
Sweet, fun, and refreshing, Kakigori is usually the first food that springs to mind when you think of summer in Japan. Made with shaved ice and topped with myriad combinations of syrup, condensed milk, and fruit, it is a delicious dessert that cools you down too.
As a much-loved treat, you can find Kakigori in two distinct forms: fancy cafe-style concoctions and the simple festival cup version. If you go for the former, you can try seasonal fruit, local specialties like brown sugar and milk in Ishigaki, or elaborate towers featuring hidden red bean paste and more.
These are a great snack on an afternoon and don’t weigh you down since it’s mostly water anyway. The festival version is much simpler, offering a cup of ice and a selection of brightly colored syrups to choose for your taste. Sometimes you opt for a flavor, sometimes you can create your own—in which case we recommend you go for a rainbow stripe. Don’t be shy with the syrup, though; it can be a long way down to the bottom of the cup!
10. Water Melon and Mizu Yokan
Summer’s the perfect time to toss up this watermelon. You’d never expect it, but to grab it with a big bite using your hands is fantastic here. Eat it, and feel fresh on even the hottest days.
Served with green tea and often featuring chestnut, yokan is a jelly-like dessert made from red bean paste, sugar, and agar—served in clear cubes or slices. In the summer, Mizu yokan—meaning “water yokan”—is served in its place and is a softer version made with a little more water. Creating a light texture that almost manages to quench your thirst, Mizu yokan has a fresh feel and sometimes comes in matcha flavor. There is plenty of wagashi to try, but this is one of the best in summer and will often be served with matcha at tea houses in shrines, gardens, and temples.