Refreshing food and drink
August 25, 2018 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for food and drink that could be classified as "refreshing": light, not overpowering with flavour, can help you feel hydrated without tasting like plain water, makes you go "aaaaaah".

I'm really getting into food and drink (mostly food, but soupy stuff) that I'd class as "refreshing". They can feel pretty hydrating but I wouldn't call them watery. They're definitely not oily and probably not made of dairy though that's not a hard & fast rule. There's not a TON of flavours all at once, but it's definitely not bland - it's more like there are one or two flavours that shine through without being in your face. It's easy on the stomach, easy to eat, but can be filling enough. Not extremely hot or cold, maybe a little warm or cool. The texture's usually soft, often soupy or melts-in-your-mouth.

I feel like Japanese cuisine has a TON of these. My favourite matcha place in town has this zenzai dessert that has a matcha "soup" with red beans and some kind of rice dumpling. The red beans and dumplings are a little sweet, which works well with the matcha's light bitterness. Matcha in general is a great example, as is sashimi. I haven't tried raindrop cake but I feel like it'd fit my definition. Maangchi's kongguksu/soy milk noodle soup (not Japanese but Korean, I realise) also sounds like it's in the right category.

Melons are good. I know celery is like 90% water but I hate celery so let's skip that. I can't really think of any other fruit or vegetable that would qualify - a lot of the ones I can think of have more texture or flavour to them than what I'm looking for. Even cucumbers or pears are a little too crunchy but they can be an edge case.

Fish in general seems like it'd be good depending on preparation, though not oily fish like mackarel or sardines. I can't really think of any other proteins that'd work nearly as well.

With drinks, I know teas are kind of the archetype, though I suspect milder teas would feel a little more "refreshing" for these purposes. Water's a little too bland. Hydrolyte drinks can physically refresh you but they have a pretty strong taste. Melon juice or plant milks seem to work well.

Any other suggestions? I'd especially be interested in ideas around food, and savoury food especially, because I feel like we associate "refreshing" with liquids. I'm pretty adventurous though bonus points if it's something easily accessible (then again if you know of something fancy like the rainbow drop cake I'm down to hear about it).
posted by divabat to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Grass jelly?
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:35 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

On the drink side, there's the category of aguas frescas. These are often somewhat sweet but can be prepared according to your taste.

On the food side, raitas probably fit the description, though they're usually more of a side dish than a meal.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:45 AM on August 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

The local quirky drink up here is switchel which is a bit of a sweetened vinegar drink and I would not have thought it would be any good at all but it's actually.

I think chilled vegetable salads can do what you want. I often enjoy this peanut/carrot salad fresh out of the refrigerator.

4 carrots (or double seems to work fine too)
1/3 C. salted peanuts (I like cocktail)
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T peanut oil
few drops of sesame oil
(a sprinkling of roasted sesame seeds optional, but nice touch)

I feel the same way around corn relishes. Around here corn is often served hot so having it cold with other chilled veggies (tomatoes and maybe some beans for protein) is a good combo.

The other go-to in the summer is cucumber, wet like celery but doesn't taste the same and not as stringy. You can put slices of it in water the way you would with lemons, or you can make simple cucumber salads which can be sweet or savory. Not as crunchy this way.
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 AM on August 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Applesauce with cinnamon and wheat germ

Canned peaches with cottage cheese

Bubble teas kind of straddle the line of drink/soup
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:04 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Trader Joe's blueberry lavender almond milk is like this, to me.
posted by jgirl at 7:05 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Genmaicha. I like it cold-brewed.
posted by mymbleth at 7:25 AM on August 25, 2018

Peeled pink grapefruit sections with at least some of the white membrane removed, chilled thoroughly. Very refreshing. Also good to toss into a green leafy salad.
posted by goodsearch at 7:30 AM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sliced cucumbers marinated in a little rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, then chilled.
posted by Malla at 7:34 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Nongu, sometimes called ice apple, though it may be hard to find.
posted by peacheater at 7:37 AM on August 25, 2018

Have you tried kohlrabi? Light and not too crunchy. Makes a fabulous slaw.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:39 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Very thinly sliced radish, plain or marinated like Malla's suggestion for cucumbers.
posted by mymbleth at 7:44 AM on August 25, 2018

Ripe persimmon, chilled, peeled and sliced very thinly.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:48 AM on August 25, 2018

Horchata. Takes about 5 minutes of prep time if you have a blender and the ingredients on hand.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:49 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Dairy but...cucumber lassi. Not the recipe I have had but it looks good. And I have a ton of cucumbers.
A childhood friend from Israel used to have a salad composed of grated carrots dressed with equal parts sugar and lemon juice as a summer treat.
Thanks for the post.
posted by Botanizer at 8:02 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Cold grapes. I stick them in the freezer for a little while, but not long enough to actually freeze (although some people like frozen grapes, too).
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:12 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Surprised no one has mentioned flavored sparkling water yet. The kind without any sweeteners in them are super-refreshing and delicious.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Green gazpacho with honey dew or really any gazpacho. I like to make mine chunkier by reserving half and blending it less than the other half.

Also I feel like adding a squeeze of lime to most fruits or vegetables makes them feel refreshing. For example, perfectly ripe avocado slices with just a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt or mango slices with a squeeze of lime to offset the sweetness.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 8:30 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Halo-halo (“hollow”)
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rote Grütze. You're going to think the narrative is hyperbolic, but I chose that link because "oh my god this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my 16 years on this planet and can I please have more?" precisely captures my experience having it for the first time during an obscenely hot German summer.
posted by teremala at 9:03 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Both dairy and soup, so toward the edge of your edge cases, but my summer go-to is Turkish cacik. You can play around with the size of the cukes - smaller dice might make it less crunchy. I've found it better to go light on the initial salting, then taste and adjust after it has chilled as the saltiness changes. You can really vary the consistency depending on how much water you use, so add gradually and adjust to your preference. This calls for adding ice cubes to make it extra cold (I've never bothered), but if you prefer something more lukewarm, it is very forgiving of a short warm up on the counter before serving.
posted by Preserver at 9:30 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Unsweetened mint iced tea. In summer we keep a big pitcher in the fridge, somehow it is much more refreshing than plain water.
posted by mai at 9:52 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jicama salad. Chopped jicama, chopped onions, ton of lime juice, and time for the flavors to mix.

You can use red onion instead and/or add things like clementines, chopped bell peppers, etc. I actually love the plain version on tostadas with mayo.
posted by cnidaria at 10:11 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Last week, I was served a blended beverage which included watermelon, mint, and possibly cucumber? It was incredible; not ice cold, just smooth and light and refreshing. Likely a version of agua de sandia (watermelon water) with some extra goodies added.
posted by sucre at 10:41 AM on August 25, 2018

posted by bq at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2018

Pelindaba Lavender iced tea. It's SO refreshing! Other brands of lavender tea just don't do it. (Looking at you, Twinings.)
posted by jgirl at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2018

On the beverage front, I can't pass up the chance to introduce more people to the delicious refreshment that is Antesite. It's French flavor drops that you add to water, and it makes it amazing. I can vouch for both the original Anise flavor and the Menthe. One bottle lasts a really long time.
posted by shelbaroo at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thirding any gazpacho or cold soup. I make gazpacho in the blender with tomato, banana pepper, cucumber, celery or whatever combination plus a splash of vinegar or lemon, water, salt. I usually drink it like a veggie smoothie but will also put in a bowl sometimes with a burrata in the middle.

I also make a refreshing gazpacho with v-8 and chopped vegetables, chop finely and uniformly (cucumber cubes, short skinny carrot matchsticks, green pepper thin, or whatever you like. Marinate in the v-8 for a day, eat all week. One spoonful should be able to grab several pieces of vegetables.

Why stop there - any fruit would work as well and you could call it a smoothie, put it in a bowl and add topping for a smoothie bowl. Acai bowl would be a good google term.
posted by RoadScholar at 2:04 PM on August 25, 2018

A restaurant I go to has a stripped down version of glass noodle salad, with only scallions, cuke slivers and wakame. The season it with soy sauce and sesame and some hot peppers.

I’ve been loving it all summer. It‘ll probably be too flavourful for this askme, but I think glass noodle salad would be an excellemt base for your own flavour combinations.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:56 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Chilled canned pineapple served with plain yogurt
posted by Sassyfras at 3:12 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Zaru soba is a hot weather classic.
posted by ReginaHart at 3:38 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

How about sweet things?

Jus Alpukat (Indonesian avocado shake)
posted by Omnomnom at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2018

This coconut milk-lime fizz has been my favorite thing this summer (I skip the rim garnishes). It's refreshing both in terms of taste and hydration, and it's easy on the stomach if you don't have issues with citrus. And it's not really sweet (well, not if you only use a tiny bit of sweetener, which I do). You can also add gin, but I don't find alcohol particularly refreshing.

Fresh pineapple is decidedly refreshing.

On the more savory side, a tomato salad with a simple sharp vinaigrette is great. It's also good with cucumbers, when you're feeling up for that edge case. Also pickles! Chilled corn soup. Chilled cucumber soup. Chilled melon soup. And yes, gazpacho.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2018

I live in Houston where it's summer 90% of the year and I constantly crave high water-content foods. Shrimp gazpacho is a fave for protein. Watermelon. Jicama. Iced mint tea. Frozen grapes. Grapefruit. Tzatziki. Sorbets.
posted by Brittanie at 5:22 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Iced hibiscus tea can be good for this, though you might need to water it down a bit.

All of the La Croix waters are like this, but I find lime, passion fruit, pamplemousse, and the curate flavors especially so.

Rosé wine. Veggie sushi. Vietnamese summer rolls that don’t have too many different things in them.
posted by lunasol at 9:17 PM on August 25, 2018

Hainanese chicken rice.
posted by mdonley at 3:18 AM on August 26, 2018

Peeled pink grapefruit sections with at least some of the white membrane removed, chilled thoroughly. Very refreshing.

Mix this with cut-up watermelon and some Maldon salt. (Can be any salt, but the flakiness of Maldon sets off fruit very well.)
posted by BibiRose at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2018

Dragon fruit! It's barely sweet and has a texture like not-cold snow, plus it's pretty with its tiny black seeds in its white snowy pulp that contrasts beautifully with its gold or disco pink rind. Definitely shrimp for protein. You might try again with cucumbers. There are so many varieties, and you might've been trying one of the too-crunchy ones.

Finally, there is something called a fingerlime that I have only ever read about, but if you can get that thing, I beg of you to try it because it sounds like exactly the pinnacle of this exact gustatory experience you are describing.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:17 AM on August 26, 2018

Also tzatziki. You can dip crudités in it, spoon it over fresh tomatoes, or eat it with light crispy crackers.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 4:34 PM on August 26, 2018

Zero-alcohol beer.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 6:19 PM on August 26, 2018

For teas, try barley tea. Doesn't have any of the bitterness that you can sometimes get if you steep tea for too long.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 11:00 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shrubs, if you like vinegar even a little, are very refreshing. You make a shrub syrup and then add as much of it as you want to seltzer, so it can be as light as you want.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:21 PM on August 26, 2018

Fresh pickles might suit you for snacking -- the pickling will make the cucumbers less crunchy, and you can use a mild recipe with less vinegar/a little bit of sugar to avoid a really punchy, sour pickle.

Given the season, you should also look into zucchini salads.

And if you don't find fresh herbs too overpowering, go for Vietnamese summer rolls.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:37 AM on August 27, 2018

posted by Seeba at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Okroshka, a cold Russian summer soup. It's strange and specific, you can use sour cream or omit. So good, so good, so good.
posted by gohabsgo at 2:47 AM on August 28, 2018

A classic summer childhood food for me was sweet mung bean soup. Serve any temperature (freeze then hack chunks off to suck on or scrape in summer). It's pretty versatile; the beans can be as soft as you want, the soup as watery or rich as you want (the article suggests a lot of ways to add flavour, but mostly we just added honey. Water, beans, honey).
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 12:50 AM on August 30, 2018

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