Summer foods in China
The Chinese calendar is sometimes extremely accurate. Last week, more specifically on July 23rd, was the beginning of the period of 大暑 Dashu or “Big heat”, a solar term that normally brings the hottest days of the summer. And, indeed, we’ve been sweltering since then! The maximum temperature during the day can reach 38ºC but the worst is that at night it’s still 28-29ºC. It’s impossible to sleep without the aircon on!
Usually, Chinese people are not big fans of eating cold things because, according to Chinese traditional medicine, cold is the root of all evil. However, they make a few exceptions when it is very hot and there are a few cold drinks and snacks that we can enjoy in the summer. These are my favourites:
– Sour plum soup (酸梅汤)
It’s called soup, but it’s a drink served very cold. It’s a bit sour and so refreshing! It is considered a traditional drink and during the summer it can be bought on the streets and is also available in restaurants. According to this recipe, the main ingredients are dried plums, hawthorn, tangerine peel, some flower tea and sugar. Liquorice and dried osmanthus flower can also be added.
– Mung bean soup (绿豆汤)
Another soup. This one is for real and served cold from the fridge. The basic ingredients are mung beans and sugar but other things can be added; my mother in law adds Job’s tears (薏米) and lily bulbs (百合). Yes, lily bulbs are eaten in China! They are a bit bitter and are considered to have a cooling effect so they are suitable for summer. I love my MIL’s mung bean soup but in restaurants it can be a hit or miss. Sometimes they use rock sugar and don’t dissolve it, so you bite on a thick piece of sugar (blergh).
– Tomato with sugar (糖番茄)
I had never been a fan of tomatoes until I came to China (and the same happened with broccoli and eggplant, Chinese do know how to cook their veggies!). The most popular dish containing tomatoes is undoubtedly fried egg and tomato (番茄炒蛋) but, for the summer, tomatoes with sugar are more refreshing and very easy to do! Just wash and slice the tomatoes, pour sugar on top and leave them on the fridge for a few hours… So cooling and so delicious!
– Cucumber with vinegar and sugar (糖醋黄瓜片)
Another super simple dish which is cucumber marinated in vinegar and sugar and refrigerated. The worst part is slicing the cucumber… but Chinese people are usually knife masters!
– Dongbei Daban ice cream (东北大板雪糕)
The name means “big board of the Northeast” and it’s the only Chinese ice cream that I think is quite good! Very creamy and the packaging is quite vintage, haha. Just a waxed paper wrapped around!
Have you tried any of these? What do you like to eat when it’s hot?