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5 Easy Japanese Summer Dishes to Make at Home

Stay cool and eat well with these five simple summer dishes that are both delicious and won’t drain your energy to make.

By 5 min read

Often in summer I really can’t be bothered to cook. It’s too hot to use the oven or stand over a hot stove, and I’ll get sick of sushi if I eat out or buy it ready-made every day. I don’t have the energy to make more than a smoothie or a snack plate, and though certainly satisfying and refreshing during the hot summer months, cooking these meals can become tedious.

Luckily, there are plenty of seasonal Japanese dishes that were intended to be consumed in the heat. With such hot and humid summers, Japanese cuisine includes an abundance of cool and refreshing dishes. And though foods like sushi require skill to make, there are plenty of simple summer dishes that are easy to put together.

Here are five of those Japanese dishes to try at home this summer.

1. Somen noodles

Photo:
A quick and easy lunch.

The ultimate summer Japanese food, somen (thin noodle made of wheat flour) are popular throughout East Asia and are a summer staple in Japan. These very thin noodles can be served hot or cold, but in Japan, they are most commonly served chilled with a savory dipping sauce called tsuyu.

Somen noodles and tsuyu are extremely simple to make. The noodles take less than two minutes to cook, and though tsuyu can be made at home, it’s readily found in Japanese grocery stores.

Once you’ve prepared your noodles and sauce, add some toppings of your choice. The most popular toppings are chopped scallions and grated ginger, but somen is versatile so you can also add tofu, an egg, vegetables and sesame seeds.

Try these somen noodle recipes

  • This in-depth recipe gives a thorough explanation of somen noodles and also includes a recipe for homemade tsuyu.
  • For a straightforward recipe with variations along with another recipe for tsuyu, check out this recipe.

2. Hiyashi chuka

Photo:
Colorful and packed with flavor.

Hiyashi chuka is a ramen dish that literally means “cold Chinese,” as it is a Chinese-style dish that is, you guessed it, served cold. With flavorful toppings, these cold noodles are the perfect cooling summer substitute for that comforting bowl of hot ramen.

Though not as simple as somen noodles, hiyashi chuka is still about as easy to make as a bowl of ramen. It includes chilled noodles, a soy sauce base and toppings of your choice—like boiled eggs, ham, crab, cucumbers and tomatoes—served together on top, creating a cute color palette.

Try these hiyashi chuka recipes

3. Hiyayakko

Photo:
The lowest effort snack.

This dish of cold tofu has been a popular summer dish for centuries, and its name is even a season word to signal summer in haiku poems. Its name comes from hiya meaning cool and yakko, which refers to the servants of samurai who wore vests with a diamond-shaped crest attached to it.

Cutting something into cubes came to be called “cutting the yakko.” So this dish is cold yakko.

There is no cooking involved in preparing hiyayakko. The traditional preparation involves a block of silken tofu topped with bonito flakes, scallions and grated ginger, and drizzled with some soy sauce.

Try these hiyayakko recipes

  • Various topping ideas, including vegan and vegetarian options, are explained in this recipe.
  • For four different variations of cold tofu, check out this recipe.

4. Rei-Shabu

Photo:
A cool take on the traditional shabu shabu.

Shabu-shabu is a popular hotpot dish and an excellent meal to keep warm in the autumn and winter. Rei-shabu is shabu shabu transformed into a cold version for summer. Shabu is the Japanese onomatopoeia for “swish,” the sound the ingredients make when stirred in the pot, and rei means cold.

Of course, you may have noticed rei-shabu is not actually a hotpot dish, but rather a cold salad with ingredients that are also used in shabu-shabu. The only ingredient that requires cooking is pork, which is boiled and chilled and served over lettuce, along with other vegetables and sesame dressing. Like in shabu-shabu, use vegetables (and a dressing) of your choice to make this refreshing salad.

Try these rei-shabu recipes

  • For a thorough explanation of the dish as well as a recipe for sesame dressing, try this recipe.
  • Or, check out this slightly different variation that also includes a longer explanation as well as a recipe for sesame dressing.

5. Zaru Soba and Zaru Udon

Photo:
Can’t go wrong with a classic.

Soba and udon noodles are traditional staples in Japanese cuisine often served with a soothing hot broth. However, these noodles can also be served cold, called zaru soba or zaru udon. Restaurants that specialize in them offer hot and cold options for each set. Zaru means “strainer,” referring to the bamboo strainer the noodles are traditionally served over.

The cold version is, like somen, served with a cold tsuyu sauce instead of a hot broth. To make zaru soba or udon, simply make the noodles and prepare your tsuyu, along with any other vegetable side dishes you like. Then you have a cool and simple dish of soba or udon noodles to enjoy in summer.

Try these zaru soba and zaru udon recipes

  • This simple recipe also includes a recipe for a quick tsuyu.
  • For an in-depth explanation of zaru soba and zaru udon with ideas on how to serve it, check out this recipe.

Have you tried any of these dishes? What else do you like to make in the summer? Let us know in the comments!

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