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Matsuri treats: Soul foods of a Japanese summer

Matsuri treats: Soul foods of a Japanese summer

Japanese summers (夏 natsu) can become very hot and humid. Luckily they also host a plentiful of festivals known as natsu matsuri (夏祭り), where the weather can be momentarily forgotten between savoury and sweet delicacies. Of course, games like fish-catching, whack-a-mole, and small lottery games are part of the festival stalls but let’s face it, food tops it all. Alongside traditional festivals such as Tanabata (七夕) and Obon (お盆), most summer festivals come accompanied with a display of fireworks serve as a pretext to head out to the food stalls (屋台 yatai) and enjoy summer as it ought to be.

Kakigori

(Image credit: photoAC)

 

Let’s start our natsu matsuri food tour by exploring one of the most well-known and refreshing street-soul foods associated with a hot Japanese summer: kakigori (かき氷). Kakigori, or fresh shaved ice with syrup on top, is a very basic form of refreshment; in some places though, you’ll find the ice topped with mochi, sweet red beans, fresh fruits, and more luxurious treats.

 

Yakisoba

(Image credit: photoAC)

 

Fresh from the kakigori, next it’s the piece de resistance of our festival tour: yakisoba (焼きそば). Yakisoba is the perfect snack in between two rounds of fireworks. Just as the name indicates, yakisoba is a well-known dish of sauteed noodles. While soba (そば) as a word on its own translates literally to buckwheat noodles, yakisoba is a dish that comprises wheat noodles, mixed and sauteed with some pork, crunchy vegetables, and a kind of barbecue sauce. 

 

Castella

(Image credit: photoAC)

 

Let’s end our little food spree on a sweet note with a small bag of mini castella cakes. These cakes were probably first brought into Japan by Portuguese merchants a long time ago, but the now Japanese traditional cakes are much loved by little ones as well as grown-ups. Soft, sweet, and bite-sized, they are baked in cake moulds of different forms. A mouthful of happiness before taking the train home, and a taste to remember the events of this wonderful evening.

 

(Image credit: photoAC)

 

These three dishes represent the festive soul foods of Japan pretty well, but you’ll be able to find many other foods as well—grilled corn, fried potatoes, cucumbers with miso—we’re just scratching the surface of the list of natsu matsuri treats. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the heat while it lasts, Japanese summer festivals await all of us.

 

Header image credit: photoAC

 

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