Cool foods for a chilled-out summer

July 1st, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

For obvious reasons, many of the summer’s food trends are being geared to beat the heat, from unusual sauces for somen (cold noodles) to original recipes for chilled seafood ramen.

Kagome's tomato somen tsuyu serving suggestion

According to Nikkei Trendy, the somen tsuyu (sauce) trend, which began back in 2008, has really caught on this year. While somen has always traditionally been served with shiso (green perilla) as a garnish, Yamasa was the first company to incorporate that flavor into a somen tsuyu. These new readymade sauces, which fall somewhere between salad dressing and soup, are designed to be splashed on top of somen and go well with salad, vegetables or meat. Since the product’s launch, Yamasa has brought out different flavors each year (this year’s is yuzu and pepper), but  according to Nikkei Trendy, the most popular product by far has been their chilled curry sauce; the novel idea of cold curry is said to appeal to young and old.

Yamasa isn’t the only food company riding the trend.  Kikkoman launched their first Salad Men Tsuyu in 2010 (shredded onion, vinegar and olive oil flavor) and this year have added an extra yuzu ponzu flavor to the range. Mizkan, Kagome and Marumiya also launched similar sauces in 2010. Kagome’s tomato tsuyu was particularly popular, echoing the success of their tomato nabe sauces. The trend definitely echoes the winter nabe soup trend we wrote about late last year, in that both give a Western twist to traditional Japanese cuisine.

In restaurants, Tokyo Walker has spotted  new types of chilled ramen being served with seafood, such as eel, snapper and shrimp. Though “traditional” chilled ramen has been a specialty of Yamagata since the 50s (and is served there no matter the season) it’s really took off nationwide in recent years as a cooling food for summer months. Eel too is seen as a cooling food, so the idea of using it instead of slices of pork to ease our woes during an especially difficult summer is a no-brainer.

Foodies might want to take note of the Tokyo Walker’s seafood cold ramen restaurant recommendations for the summer: Chilled sea bream soup ¥780 from Shinmen Shirohachi; chilled seafood soup ¥900 from Menya Busashibukots; and conger eel and green tea soup ¥980 from Men Yashiyouno.

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One Response

  1. Great article. I’ll never forget my first taste of somen … it wasn’t just a meal, it was a whole sensory experience. By the way, have you ever tried “nagashi somen?” It’s an outdoor summer thing, whereby the somen is piped down a split bamboo (or plastic equivalent) and you have to catch it with your chopsticks, which I found very hard to do! Most Japanese people no longer do this on a regular basis, but are very pleased to have an excuse to demonstrate it to eager somen virgins. Great hilarity usually ensues.

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