Lots of cultures eat soup all year round, regardless of how hot and humid the weather gets. In Mexico, you'll watch people hover over a steaming bowl of caldo, pozole, or menudo at all times of day and at any temperature.
In Japan, it actually gets quite hot and humid too, with temperatures topping 100 in some regions, but ramen shops continue to do brisk business year round. If you can't wrap your mind around the thought of hot broth on a hot day, our local ramen shops have a couple of fixes.
Chilled ramen, or Hiyashi Chuka, is cold ramen with less broth and some fresh accompaniments that make sense for summertime. Or try Tsukemen, where the ramen is served alongside the soup. Otherwise, just opt for a broth-less ramen, or a lighter veggie ramen, which some spots are starting to offer as an alternative to rich, porky or chicken-bone broths.
A few places to get ramen on the lighter side for summertime:
At Zen Box they're constantly tinkering with new ways to present ramen, and summer is as good an excuse as any to tinker.
Chef John Ng's latest version includes billowy ham from Red Table Meat Co., pickled sea beans, sea salt-cured daikon radish, and tomato dressed with honey yuzu (an Asian citrus).
602 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
Ramen Kazama's Hiyashi Chuka noodles are served over chilled broth, then garnished with shredded cucumber, tomato, and seaweed, plus just the right amount of pork for flavor. Keep a close eye on them for soon they'll be serving Tsukemen, a ramen preparation made wildly popular in New York city by David Chang of Momofuku. Now you, lucky one, get to stay in Minneapolis and have yours.
3400 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Abura ramen translates to "oil noodles," and while that doesn't exactly sound refreshing, trust us, it is.
Instead of broth, the noodles are tossed with a lightly flavored oil and tare, a soy-based seasoning sauce. It comes topped with an egg, so stir everything together in the bowl to form a creamy, emulsified sauce.
Moto-i serves both a vegetarian version of abura and a porky style. The veggie is one of our favorite summer hankerings, with umami-filled Maitake mushrooms that lend a meaty flavor, and a bunch of summer veg including sweet corn, zucchini, and pickled red onion. The noodles are tossed with Maitake oil, ensuring you'll never miss the meat. The whole of it is finished with ponzu, scallion, and a lush egg.
For meat lovers, expect all the same stuff but with the addition of fatty planks of smoked pork shoulder.
2940 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis
Kung Fu Noodles
Vegetarian ramen isn't the easiest to come by, but they've got it at the under-sung noodle joint Kung Fu on Nicollet.
Bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, corn, cabbage, and pickled ginger bob about in a light miso broth. Add an appetizer of salted cucumbers and some sake on tap for ultimate refreshment.
2710 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Get vegan shoyu (soy sauce) ramen with vegetarian stock, roasted mushrooms, red pepper, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and leeks at Unideli, the always-bustling grab-and-go counter at the center of Asian grocery United Noodle.
Bonus: They also serve house-made Kombucha in flavors like lychee-watermelon, yuzu-ginger-pear, or spicy tomato, just the sipper to accompany your summertime slurping.