Best Japanese Summer Noodles

Best Japanese Summer Noodles

Jun 23, 2023 Tags 

In Japan, a brilliant way of escaping the heat is to eat some cold noodles. Whether you’re preparing them at home or dining in your favorite Japanese restaurant, the coolness that these noodles bring is just refreshing.

To give you an idea of which cold delights to try amidst the sultry heat in the land of the rising sun, here’s a list of the best Japanese noodles in summer.


Hiyashi Chuka


Hiyashi Chuka


Colorful and refreshing, hiyashi chuka (冷やし中華) or cold/chilled ramen is perfect when you’re looking for a light meal during the summer. Atop the cold noodles is a load of vegetables and protein. And if you prefer to make this vegan or pescatarian, all you need to do is prepare them without the unnecessary protein and add tofu instead. Hiyashi chuka can either have a soy sauce-based dressing or a sesame and miso-based one.

Hiyashi chuka mainly uses fresh noodles, so you can’t buy them online. But for those outside Japan who want to prepare it at home, they can use dried ramen noodles. 


Cold Somen


Somen is a type of Japanese noodles created using wheat flour. They are usually served chilled with tsuyu sauce or mentsuyu (めんつゆ), a mild yet savory sauce used as a soup base in Japanese noodle dishes.


Nagashi Somen


Nagashi Somen


Nagashi somen (流しそうめん) offers an interesting and exciting way of consuming noodles during summer. You can’t easily do this at home since somen is served by letting them flow on ice-cold water that runs through a bamboo chute.

It’s definitely a must-try if you’re visiting Japan during its summer months. If trying nagashi somen is part of your bucket list, you need to find the places where they’re offered as well as the restaurant’s schedule. Restaurants hold them outdoors in an all-you-can-eat setup and offer toppings, sauces, and side dishes.

You do need to practice your chopstick skills, though! As this unique eating style will require you to catch the noodles with your pair of chopsticks.



Cold Udon


Udon isn’t only for hot dishes. When consumed chilled, udon is both light and refreshing. The best thing about this Japanese noodle is that it can be enjoyed in different ways in summer.


Tanuki Udon


Tanuki Udon


Tanuki udon (たぬきうどん) is a cold noodle dish that uses dashi broth (a base for a lot of Japanese soups) and tempura bits locally known as tenkasu (天かす). While the name may remind you of a certain animal, this refreshing dish isn’t connected to raccoons at all. It is also topped with egg and veggies, including seaweed, tomatoes, cucumber, and edamame.


Zaru Udon


Zaru Udon


Another favorite cold noodle dish among the Japanese is the zaru udon (ざるうどん). Tsuyu sauce supplies its umami flavor to zaru udon.
In Japan, zaru is a kitchen utensil made of bamboo. It serves as a strainer for the noodles, eliminating excess water. But don’t worry if you don’t have it. You can use a bamboo sushi roller in its place

Although it’s good as a stand-alone dish, you can turn it into a fuller meal by adding side dishes including fried fish and vegetable tempura.


Good to Know: Types of Udon Noodles That Can Be Served Chilled


Chilled Udon


Most types of udon, which are sourced from different regions in Japan, can be served as cold noodle dishes. But among the most common types served as a cold dish are Sanuki udon, Inaniwa udon, and Himi udon.

  • Sanuki udon hails from Kagawa Prefecture, which is in the southern part of Japan. Its name comes from the former name of the area, Sanuki. People love it for its thickness and chewiness. This square-shaped noodle is among the widely used types of udon across the country.
  • Inaniwa udon, characteristic-wise, is the opposite of Sanuki udon. These noodles sourced from the Akita Prefecture in northern Japan are thin, smooth, and delicate. It is the preferred option of most Japanese households. 
  • Himi udon, which comes from the Toyama Prefecture, is characterized by its flat, wide noodles, which are thinner compared to the traditional thick udon noodles. 


Cold Soba


Cold soba, which uses real soba noodles made using a combination of wheat and buckwheat, is a typical snack or light meal during Japanese summers. Its dip is made of soy sauce, cooking wine, and dashi.


Zaru Soba


Zaru Soba


Zaru soba (ざる蕎麦) is a summer staple in Japanese households. It’s an easy-to-prepare dish that’s commonly served atop a zaru (bamboo strainer) with soy sauce and dashi-based dipping sauce. It’s great with green onions and ginger.

With zaru soba, you are treated to a unique texture coming from the buckwheat noodles. If you love this noodle’s nutty taste, prepare your cold dish with this soba instead of udon.


Oroshi Soba


Oroshi Soba


Cold soba noodles are often simple and easy to make. It goes the same for another cold soba dish called oroshi soba (おろし蕎麦). This delightful summer food further elevates its refreshing flavors with the addition of grated daikon radish, which not only provides a crisp and cool element to the dish but also gives it a kick of spice and zest. 




Italian-style Japanese pasta


With all the traditional Japanese food on this list, you might be surprised about why we added pasta here. Japan has also embraced the concept of chilled pasta, resulting in unique, fusion-style dishes that combine Western pasta with Japanese flavors and ingredients.

The most common type of pasta-style noodle dish is salads. The Japanese typically use macaroni, pasta noodles, or penne. Most of them are mixed with vegetables and proteins with Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie, specifically) used as a dressing for a richer taste.

Japanese cold pasta is typically served as side dishes with other Western-style foods like barbeque and hamburg steak.




Whether you plan to go to Japan during the country’s sweltering summers or you simply want a refreshing light meal, you can try out these cold noodle dishes. The best thing about some of them is that Japanese noodle restaurants in your country are likely offering these cool and satisfying eats.

The Japanese tradition of eating these cold noodle dishes during the summer is a fantastic way to beat the heat. From the noodles down to the ingredients, you have plenty of options to keep yourself refreshed.

Get yourself started with one of ZenPop's summer Ramen Boxes!