Summer in Japan: Street Food Festivals

Yakitori sticks

Famous for its bite-sized dishes, you might be surprised that Japan does not have a strong street food culture – but it has not always been this way!

Until the 1950s, Japan’s cities were busy with street food stalls or yatai, serving old 20th century dishes such as grilled or baked seafoods on sticks and yaki imo, an ancient snack of wood fire-baked sweet potatoes. However, when Japan hosted the Olympics in 1964 a great movement was made to clean up the streets and the yatai had to fight hard to keep their trade.

Only recently has street food begun popular again in the main Japanese cities as it is still seen to be quite unreserved to eat on the move, so the yatai tend to follow Japan’s annual 100 000 festival calendar to sell their sweet and savoury snacks.

Okonomiyaki on the grill

Summer is the busiest time for festivals and you’re sure to find okonomiyaki pancakes fried with cabbage, egg and vegetables or meat, yakitori chicken skewers grilled over charcoal,  takoyaki fried battered octopus on a stick, and yakisoba stands serving their fried noodles with cabbage and meat.

Making takoyaki

Finally make sure to leave space for the sweets on offer, including mochi (glutinous rice cake) or fruit on a stick – in fact, the use of a stick is one way to transform anything into street food!

In the humidity of Japan in August you’ll also be reaching for kakigori shaved ice, a refreshing fruity drink. This comes in all sorts of flavours such as matcha green tea and lemon, and can be topped with traditional sweet red beans or even jelly and whipped cream.

Green tea and cherry blossom kakigori

This week I reached for my own matcha ice cream recipe as it’s been so hot in London! This dish is crisp and revitalising, inspired by this taste of frozen green tea kakigori.

To help my readers feel refreshed during this heatwave, I’ve provided the recipe below – enjoy!

Green Tea Ice Cream (served below with cherry blossom ice cream and biscuit crumb)



350ml double cream
350ml soya milk or full fat milk
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
150g caster sugar
1 tbsp green tea powder
3 tbsp boiling water ( to melt green tea powder )


  1. Heat the double cream & milk in a sauce pan until hot, but not boiling.
  2. Whisk an egg & egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. In a small cup, melt the green tea powder with boiling water until it is smooth.
  4. Add the green tea puree to the pan of milk & cream mixture and whisk well until dissolved.
  5. Pour this hot mixture into the egg & sugar mixture in the bowl and whisk well until mixed completely.
  6. Pour all back to the pan and re-heat with the lowest heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Be careful not to scramble. In case if it starts to scramble, “Don’t panic!” quickly take the pan off the heat and whisk it vigorously over the cold water.
  7. Pour the mixture back into the bowl and cool by dipping the bowl in cold water in the sink. Stir and change the water occasionally.
  8. When the mixture becomes room temperature, transfer to the freezer for 30 min in your ice cream machine. Then churn for 30 minutes. Serve.
  9. If you do not have an ice cream machine, transfer to the freezer in a plastic tube and mix by hand every 30 minutes until frozen and smooth. Serve.




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