Summer Food to Fight the NATSUBATE
Like in many countries, people in Japan believe that it is important to eat the food which is in season. When we think about seasonal ingredients, we usually think about fruits and vegetables. However, in Japan, there are also seasonal fish and dishes that are eaten during a specific time of the year. In summer, it’s believed, these dishes should help you fighting what is called in Japanese “natsubate“, the summer fatigue. So what are these dishes and their ingredients?
You can get unagi all year round, but it is especially common to eat it in summer, as unagi is packed with vitamins, especially vitamins B1 and B2, which help to defeat natsubate. A tradition of eating eel during the summer days started back in the Nara period (over 1,300 years ago) when it was food for the poor. It was known that it was healthy, but people back then did not how to cook it, so it would taste good, therefore only poor people used to eat it. Nowadays when it is cooked in a special sauce, it became a beloved dish of many. However, now it is pretty expensive and considered to be a delicatessen. Yet many try to get it at least on special days.
Ume (Japanese plum):
Japanese plum is rarely eaten fresh. It is often pickled and used in various dishes. Pickled plum has antibacterial effects and helps to prevent food poisoning. Many people do not like it as it is very salty and sour, but is very good for the body.
Goya (bitter melon):
Goya has an extremely bitter taste but is also very healthy. There is carotene, potassium, and vitamin C in it. And it is one of the most popular ingredients in Okinawan cuisine, and as we all know, the longevity in Okinawa is one of the longest in the world.
Japanese types of noodles, such as soba (buckwheat noodles), udon (thick noodles), somen (thin noodles), and even western pasta dishes are often served cold in summer. The noodles are boiled, then cooled, and usually served with mentsuyu, special sauce made of dried tuna flakes, sake, and soy sauce.
Hiyayakko is basically chilled tofu served with a soy sauce and some topping such as green onions, bonito flakes, or edamame. This dish is usually served as a side dish, and it is supposed to cool the body on a sweltering day.
Mugicha (barley tea)
Technically it is not food but a drink. In summer, it is served in Japanese traditional restaurants instead of more familiar matcha. That is because it has many health benefits and also can lower the body temperature even when served hot.
Another drink on this list, which is made from fermented rice. The drink is rich in vitamin C, amino acids, fiber, and more. All these help to cool the body and help the digestive system to work better.
Anmitsu is a name of a Japanese dessert made of agar jelly served with fresh fruits and anko (sweet red bean paste) and topped with anmitsu sauce, made from brown sugar and soy sauce. The sauce makes its sweet, and fruits make the dish refreshing. The jelly on its own is almost tasteless.
Even though it is called “mochi”, it is not made from rice, rather from starch produced from the bracken root. Warabi mochi is soft and chewy, and usually topped kinako (made of soybean) powder, which gives it a nutty flavor.
Kakigori (shaved ice)
Last but definitely not least, kakigori is a Japanese shaved ice. It was used to be served with simple flavored sweet syrups, sometimes with condensed milk, too. However, in the past 2-3 years, there is a real kakigori boom in Japan. There are many cafes that serve only kakigori and make it more unique by using seasonal ingredients and many seasonal fruits. They also make really crazy toppings, foams, sauces, creams, etc. Sometimes you can even find non-sweet versions topped with fried eggs and noodles.
These are probably the most popular summer dishes and desserts in Japan. If you haven’t tried them yet, you should use your opportunity, because now this food can be easily found and it is most delicious when in season.
Check out our other posts about Japanese food and cafes: