With the almost unbearable heat that is the Japanese summer, how do common folks survive when outside in the sun? Taking our mind off with some beautiful summer food is one way people get through the summer. Here are some common dishes people crave during the summer in Japan:
Kakigori, or shaved ice, is a summertime favorite, especially in the peak of summertime, which can get up to 40 degree Celsius on a bad day, depending on the region of Japan. What better way to cool down than with literally shaved ice? During the summer, shops and street stores start to sell kakigori, which is ice shaved into a snow-like texture and then flavored with sweet syrup. The syrup is usually very bright, almost neon in color, ranging from pink (“strawberry”) to blue (“blue Hawaii”) to green (“melon”). There is a rumor (or observation) that the syrup types are actually indistinct from each other except in their coloring. If you like the fancier stuff, there are also higher end restaurants that add fruits and more luxurious ingredients into their kakigori.
Unagi, the oily eel dish, is also deemed as summer food in Japan. Why would a warm and heavy and oily (albeit very delicious) dish be considered as summer food? Its origins as a summertime dish seem to have been from research/ urban legend that the nutrient-rich food helps to replenish the energy that is sapped from our bodies in the heat. Its status as summer food is such that there are dedicated days for eating unagi (unagi no hi) throughout summer. If you don’t feel your body getting cool down during the meal, perhaps the sweat that you break into when receiving the bill might…
Watermelon, or suica in Japanese, is a universally loved fruit in the heat, thanks to its high water content, refreshing sweetness and cooling properties. They were a fairly new crop in Japan, introduced from China during the Edo period a few hundred years ago, and Japanese people have since developed a great taste for it. And of course, Japan is fairly famous for its fancy-shaped watermelons, from squares to even heart-shaped watermelons, all fetching a pretty penny in upscale supermarkets in the city.
We hope that you all have a chance to enjoy the great summer, with great summer dishes!