Summer has finally arrived! With warm sunny days and blue skies ahead of us, it’s time to switch into summer mode with some al fresco dining. Pack up the picnic, fire up the BBQ and make the most of the glorious weather while it lasts!
If you’re in the mood for some summery food, Japan Centre is here to inspire you with delicious recipes, all with a Japanese twist. From sake based cocktails and chilled desserts, to light salads and skewers for grilling, our recipes cover vegan options too. Itadakimasu!
Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan can be hot and humid, so some head out of the city to cooler climes. Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido has a pleasant temperature at this time of year, so it’s a good time to visit if you’re not a fan of the heat. Coastal resorts are also popular, like the popular Shirahama seaside resort in Wakayama prefecture, where you can relax on the golden sands or take a refreshing swim in the sea. Take advantage of your proximity to the ocean by indulging in the freshest fish and seafood or wander by the beach with an ice-cream.
Summer in the city is fun too though of course, and with Tanabata (Japan’s Star Festival) kicking off on 7 July, the summer months are a time to celebrate and enjoy tasty festival food. This summer, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are a great reason to stay in the city. If you want to be close to the water, head to the Odaiba (Tokyo Bay) area where you can enjoy entertainment, shopping, a man-made beach, and lots of fantastic dining options, from fast food to fine dining.
Summer Food Inspiration
Wherever you are this summer, there’s no better way to make the most of the good weather than enjoying good food in the sunshine. Whether you’re having a picnic under a shady tree in the park or cooking up a storm on the BBQ, here are some of our favourite foods to tuck into this summer.
BBQ Food with a Japanese Twist
Popular as street food at summer festivals (matsuri), yakitori is skewered pieces of chicken, marinated and cooked on an open flame for a smokey flavour. Why not try out our yakitori recipe to add a Japanese twist to your BBQ menu. For a vegan version of yakitori, swap the meat for vegetables and tofu, and coat with a sweet, sticky teriyaki sauce.
Another staple of the great British BBQ is the burger, but why stick to a traditional beef burger when you can serve something a little different this summer. Tempura tofu steak burgers coated with a herby coriander pesto are not only delicious but healthy and suitable for vegans too.
If you prefer a fish dish, then try our recipe for grilled tuna with a miso and mayonnaise marinade. It may sound like an unlikely combo, but the sauces mix together to create a rich umami sauce that’s packed full of flavour.
Cocktails and Mocktails
What could be better than relaxing with a delicious chilled beverage in the summer sun. Whether you fancy something with an alcoholic twist or not, we’ve got some suggestions for you! For mojitos Japan style, switch out the rum for sake instead. Sake mojitos are deliciously minty like a regular mojito but slightly less sweet, making this a perfect pairing for your summer BBQ food.
Swap your hot matcha latte for an iced matcha instead, as a refreshing alternative. Or if you fancy something a little stronger, you can transform your green tea using shochu, a popular Japanese spirit that is often used in cocktails. Check out our summer scorcher green tea shochu cocktail here.
Indulge in a milkshake-style drink that’s filled with nutrients by whipping up a tofu shake. This creamy drink is dairy-free too, making it suitable for vegans. Melon is a popular flavouring for sweets and drinks in Japan, and nothing says summer like the taste of melon. Our melon soda float has a tropical vibe; fizzy, vibrant green in colour and with a scoop of ice-cream to take it to the next level of deliciousness.
Salads are the perfect summer food – easy to prepare, little cooking required, and light and healthy too! Switch out the usual green leaves for seaweed to add a Japanese element to your salads. Wakame pairs nicely with both edamame and tofu to create truly nutritious salads that combine several superfoods into one.
In Japan, salad dressings are often sesame and soy based, making them low in fat, with a nutty flavour. If you’re after something richer then the classic potato salad, often a staple at summer barbecues, will be a welcome addition to your summer menu. Mix your potatoes with hugely popular Kewpie mayo to give your potato salad that Japanese twist!
Picnics in the Park
Blue skies and sunshine make us want to pack up the picnic blanket and head to the nearest park! Bento is the ideal snack to take with you if you want to dine al fresco. After preparing, your food can be packaged into separate compartments within your bento box making it easily transportable. Check out our light summer bento recipe here. With bento you can have a bit of everything – salad, pickles, rice, meat, seafood… the choice is yours. Chilled soba noodles also make a great addition to your picnic bento, and why not pack a sweet treat or two as well.
Have you heard about the Japanese summer sandwich? For a Japanese take on the classic western sandwich, just add cream and fruit for a summery treat that makes a perfect picnic snack. It may sound slightly unusual , but trust us, it’s delicious!
Nothing says summer like a chilled dessert! May-June is strawberry season in Japan, and these juicy red berries are synonymous with summer here in the UK too. For something a little different from the usual Eton Mess or fruit salad, try out our strawberry recipes with a Japanese twist! Our strawberry daifuku is filled with creamy white chocolate and matcha ganache encased in mochi. Or try out our pink strawberry awayukikan dessert with its marshmallow consistency created from kanten agar, sugar and egg whites.
Kakigori shaved ice is an essential part of any Japanese summer and a popular festival food. This icy cool treat is covered in syrup, condensed milk and can be topped with fruit too. Definitely the perfect treat to cool you down on the hottest of summer days!
For Japanese ice cream try pickled plum or kinako – why stick with vanilla when Japan has so many vibrant flavour sensations to enhance your ice cream. Enjoy the sourness of pickled plum (umeboshi) or the earthy taste of kinako soy bean flour, both of which pair beautifully with the sweetness of ice-cream.
Have you tried any of these summer snacks? Let us know in the comments below. You can make all of these recipes in the comfort of your own kitchen using our online recipe section.
Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.
Words by Emily Lovell
Image credit: ice creams. Timothy Takamoto via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/28RQo