Natsu no aji are the flavors found during summer.
The really crappy thing about summer in Japan is the hammering heat and humidity. Especially in the urban concrete jungle of Tokyo.
To combat this, the Japanese move toward using salt and vinegar in foods for more refreshing tastes.
Edamame is boiled and salted soybeans. They’re exceptionally popular paired with a beer in Japan. And while you can get edamame all year round, you’ll start seeing it more often as otoshi (a small dish given as a starter at izakaya).
Beer is also more popular in the summer and edamame is one of the most popular otsumami (drink snacks).
Nasu is eggplant. A prominent dish using nasu in the summertime is shigiyaki. It’s eggplant cut in half, then sliced on one end. Then it’s grilled along with neri-miso (a mix of sugar sake, ginger, and miso paste).
Ume is the Japanese apricot and is ready in June. The unripened ones, green in color, are used to make umeshu (ume flavored alcohol). The ripe ones are used to make umeboshi — a salted ume which itself is used throughout many dishes in Japanese cuisine.
Maguro is tuna, the highly popular fish used in nearly all sushi restaurants throughout Japan. While eaten throughout the year, Summer fishing months bring in more qualities of maguro.
Different parts of maguro have different names too. The most sought after being toro, which is the belly of the fish — desired for its rich flavor and higher oil content.
Katsuo is the bonito fish. You may recognize the name from the fish flakes called katsuobushi — which are made from this fish.
In the Summer one of the most popular sashimi is katsuo — and it’s seasoned with vinegar. And since it is seasoned already it’s usually not dipped in shoyu before eating.
Ayu is sweetfish. It is particularly popular in the Summer, in late July, because it’s slightly oilier and has better flavor.
They’re usually salted and grilled. Often you’ll find them at festivals skewered on a wood spike, standing straight up out of the grill while they cook.
Next Page: Aki no aji (秋の味)