As hot and humid days continues to suppress appetites in what may sometimes seem like a never-ending summer in Japan, cooling, light and slurp-easy foods like the tokoroten provide gastronomic relief.
This is perhaps best described as a jelly-like noodle, made from seaweed and usually eaten with a mix of sweet vinegar and soy sauce, with a sprinkling of seaweed, sesame and Japanese mustard for a refreshing slurp. It can also be eaten sweet with black honey.
After the seaweed has been dissolved in water and congealed into a jelly form, it is pressed out into noodle form.
Unlike gelatin desserts, the tokoroten has a firmer texture. It is eaten as a summer snack, though as it practically 90% water, it is popular as a diet food as well, used to replace carbohydrate-rich noodles such as udon.
It’s unique production method of being pressed out via a block device has made it a sort of cultural icon, even replicated in quirky souvenirs. So the next time you spot this at a souvenir shop, you’ll know what it is!
Shun (旬) translates directly into “season”, but strictly speaking in Japan refers to the ten days in which a food (be it a fruit, vegetable, fish or dish) is deemed to be at its tastiest and best period in which it is to be eaten. 季節（kisetsu), which also translates into “season”, refers to six periods within each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter), according to the solar calendar in which a change in the season is deemed to occur – an indication of the Japanese sensitivity to changes in the weather and climate, and its impact on crops and catches of the day. 「A Taste of Sh旬n」aims to bring you the freshest and best harvests, catches and dishes of the day.