What’s on Your Summer Menu?

By Sophia Hsu

One of summer’s more interesting, yet fun, challenges, can be choosing what to eat when dining out. Here are some fresh dishes from countries who know how to eat in the heat.

Burmese cuisine involves elements of Chinese, Thai, and Indian cuisine. With average temperatures year round hovering around 90 F, Burma has a lot to offer the summer palate. Almost anything can be made into a salad. One ingredient that compliments summer is the green mango, which is a young, unripened mango that offers crunch and a super tart flavor. The crispness of the fruit is great in savory salads. Order the green mango salad next time you swing by Cafe Mingala on the Upper East Side for a refreshing change. For something a little more exotic, try their lepeh thoke (pickled green tea leaf salad).

Burma’s neighbor, Thailand, believes in experiencing all five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty, much like the Burmese do. Almost all of the cuisine includes these five fundamental elements to taste. Sweet can be represented in the fruit pastes used in a sauce base. Spicy chilies are always prevalent; but onions, shallots, scallions, and garlic are also considered spicy. Sour can come from the tamarind, and limes provide the bitter element. Fish sauce and shrimp paste/powder usually provide the salty element in much of Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese cuisines. My suggestion is Klong in the East Village to try both the street foods that television foodies rave about as well as something more traditional and refreshing like som tam (green papaya salad).

In India as in Burma, dairy products are used as a cooling food to counteract the variety of spices and chilies. For something truly refreshing, try the kachumber at Bombay Masala in the Prospect Heights side of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. The yogurt, cucumber, and carrots compliment the spices of their wonderful dishes so well.

Spending summer vacations in Taiwan gave me the opportunity to try every cold dish possible to stay cool. Chilled braised seaweed and freshly pickled cucumbers were always a favorite. You can try both of these dishes at Excellent Pork Chop House in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Don’t forget to try the pork chop, too.

Pickles and salads are my favorite parts of a Korean meal. Lunch at Song 7.2 in the East Village provides you the entree you ordered (go for the fresh bibimbap – it’s cool, crisp, and refreshing) and several types of pickled vegetables and a cold soup. What a great way to eat and stay cool!

Keep these cooling dishes in mind this summer while eating out in New York. Remember, stay hydrated and in the shade. Have a great summer!