Summer is on its way and we will soon run out of ideas on how to cool down. Air conditioning, a fan, cold drinks: these are standard when it comes to trying not to suffer from the heat. But what about when you are outside, right in the boiling weather? What can we do to enjoy the hottest season of the year?
Wearing a hat and light clothes, after that, staying in shades would be the general idea. But that is not always possible, especially when you are up for a stroll in the park. Spending your free time outdoors does not need to be a horror scenario, if you try the Japanese traditional summer ice called kakigori (かき氷), a sort of shaved ice.
It is a popular street food, normally sold at Japanese summer festivals, at most convenience stores and often even at cafes when it is burning hot outside.
Some might know shaved ice from Hawaii, where it was brought by Japanese plantation workers who immigrated. Its Japanese origins actually trace back to the Heian Period (AD 794 to 1185), where it is mentioned in ‘The Pillow Book’ (枕草子 makura no sōshi) written by Sei Shounagon, a Japanese author and court lady.
Not all kakigori are the same. A good one would have the consistency of fluffy fresh fallen snow, with quality toppings and a good syrup. Poor ones have just crunchy ice with syrups that are too sweet.
‘Traditional’ flavours include melon (green), blue hawaii (blue), strawberry (red), lemon (yellow), but there is no limit to syrup tastes: there are extravagant flavours such as mango syrup or milk and honey, and even luxurious ones like champagne kakigori introduced by the The strings hotel in Shinagawa, Tokyo.
For handmade kakigori, a special device is used, in which a block of ice is shaved. These are sold at any big electrical appliance store though most are used manually. If you happen to own one ice shaving machine, you might want to try out this luxurious melon kakigori recipe here!