Japanese summers are hot and humid. Here are 5 recommended desserts to refresh you and keep you cool during that time.
Kakigoori is a dessert made with finely shaved ice covered in syrup. It is one of Japan’s representative summer desserts. Many restaurants and cafes offer it as part of their limited summer menu but recently there have been many kakigoori specialty shops in various places and some of them are so popular you have to line up. Depending on the shop, the menu differs with kinds ranging from those that use natural ice from lakes or ponds, kinds that look like parfaits with ice cream and fruit on top, and more. There are also many shops that have come up with ingenious ways to shave the ice, to make the ice the texture of cotton candy that’s fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth to surely have more and more people become addicted to it. The standard flavors are along the lines of strawberry milk and matcha with azuki beans. Don’t make light of the ice though because you’ll surely be impressed by the delicious flavors that are colored into its white canvas.
Warabimochi is one of Japan’s traditional sweets. Bracken starch is mixed with water and flour over heat and then once it cools and solidifies, it is eaten with kinako flour and black sugar syrup on top. The smooth, jelly-like appearance makes it one of the standard summer desserts but you can actually eat it all year round in Japan. The characteristic of warabimochi is its jiggly texture. The mildly sweet warabimochi with the mellow kinako and the strong, deep flavor of the brown sugar syrup is a match made in heaven. You will become addicted to the unique texture that’s neither a jelly nor mochi. You can buy warabimochi at the Japanese confectionary shops in department stores or in convenience stores but we recommend freshly made warabimochi. The texture changes the more time passes so if you have the chance, eat in at a Japanese confectionary shop and savor the freshly made flavor. First timers will definitely crack a smile at the brand new texture!
3. Mizu Manju
Mizu manju is made of a dough of primarily arrowroot flour with anko or fruit inside, which is then chilled and solidified. The transparent manju has visible anko and it is quite refreshing and is a perfect dessert for summer. It has a similar texture to warabimochi but the difference is the large chunk of anko inside. The feeling of the anko spilling out from the smooth manju as you bite into it is quite refined and very Japanese. No matter how many you eat, we doubt there’s a single person who hates the simple sweetness and the feeling of it sliding down your throat! There are many shops that only sell it for a limited time during the summer so we recommend confirming with the store beforehand.
Tokoroten is red algae that is boiled then chilled and cut into noodles, then eaten together with vinegar, sesame seeds or mustard (some areas also eat it with black sugar syrup on top). Its special feature is its texture that is a little firmer in consistency than jelly and because it’s not a sweet dessert, it's a highly popular item among men. Since they’re in the shape of noodles, you can slurp them to eat. Together with the vinegar, it’s perfect for the summer heat as well as times when you don’t have much of an appetite. Tokoroten is also high in dietary fiber so it’s quite happily used as an remedy against internal dysfunctions. There are tokoroten speciality shops but there are also many Japanese confectionary shops that sell it. We recommend it for times when you’re exhausted from the heat or for times when you’ve overeaten!
The dessert made from diced vegetable gelatin with red peas, anko and fruit on top then drizzled in sweet syrup is known as anmitsu. It’s a standard dessert at Japanese confectionary shops and is generally offered all year round. However, it was originally a seasonal snack that reminded you of summer. Recently there have been developments in anmitsu, including cream anmitsu that comes with ice cream or whipped cream on top, shiratama anmitsu with white dumplings inside and many other new ideas of anmitsu have been available depending on the store. The balance of sweetness with the mostly plain gelatin, red beans, black sugar syrup, azuki, fruit, and ice cream when eaten together is the the best part of anmitsu. It’s more refreshing than a parfait and a very Japanese summer dessert. It’s not an exaggeration to say that each confectionary store has its own variation of colors so it will be fun to eat them and compare.
There are many Japanese-style desserts that are perfect for the humid summer. Many of them are quite refreshing, so try and savor as many kinds of summer desserts as you can.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.