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Beat the Heat with these Japanese Summertime Foods

Summer in Japan can be hot, with temperatures in July and August often reaching above 90 degrees with lots of humidity. On sweltering days like these, here are 4 things to enjoy to beat the heat.

Somen (そうめん): Somen are long, thin wheat noodles often served chilled. The noodles are typically enjoyed with the dipping sauce on the side. One popular way to eat the noodles is nagashi-somen (流しそうめん), where bundles of noodles are sent down a bamboo water slide; diners catch the noodles as they flow by. Popular toppings for somen are: green onions, shredded chicken, thinly sliced omelet, grated ginger, shiso (green perilla), shredded nori, chilled cherries.

Hiyashi Chuka (冷やし中華): Literally translated as “Chilled Chinese-style,” Hiyashi Chuka is another popular chilled noodle dish. The “Chinese” refers to the vinegar-soy sauce dressing that adds a tangy flavor to cold ramen noodles. Julienned cucumbers, ham, egg and crab sticks with shrimp, tomatoes, radish sprouts and pickled ginger combine with the chewy noodles to make a refreshing lunch or dinner.

Mugicha (麦茶; むぎちゃ): Mugicha is tea made from roasted barley. Enjoyed hot or cold, chilled mugicha is a popular summertime drink, easily made at home or available in vending machines and grocery or convenience stores. Traditionally brewed by boiling whole barley  grains, today ground barley in tea bags have become a popular way to make the drink.

Kakigori (かき氷): Shaved ice can be found everywhere in Asia the world. Kakigori was first mentioned in the Japanese classic, The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon, where it was enjoyed by Japanese aristocrats in the 11th century. It wouldn’t be until the 19th century that this shaved ice dessert would become widely available to people everywhere.

Kakigori is available in the summer from street vendors, sweets shops and at every summer festival. Any shop displaying a banner with the red kanji character for ice (氷) written in red are sure to offer kakigori. Light, fluffy shaved ice traditionally came with flavored syrups, sweetened red bean and sweetened condensed milk, but today toppings include fresh fruit, mochi balls, green tea powder (matcha) and ice cream.

July 25th is Kakigori day in Japan but you don’t have to wait until then to enjoy this summertime favorite.