Summer is in full swing for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and depending on where you live, that could mean any amount of sweltering, unbearable heat and humidity. And unless you can live off of some variety of frozen liquid all summer, you may sometimes have to venture into the kitchen to make a meal. Why not make it a deliciously refreshing one while you’re at it?
Somen is a very thin type of Japanese noodle made of wheat flour. It’s most commonly eaten cold as a light summer meal, accompanied by dipping sauce and a number of yakumi, or toppings. It is also served hot in the winter months, in a soup called nyumen (simmered noodles).
Part of the fun of eating cold somen is the variety of presentation options, ranging from simple (in a large communal bowl of ice water) to kind of adventurous (flowing down a bamboo slide with running water that eaters have to catch their noodles out of, a.k.a. nagashi-somen)!
In our version below we arranged the somen in coils. This can be a little tricky the first time, and although one aspect of washoku is its aesthetic value, the most important part is to enjoy making and eating it! So if you don’t want to coil them up (nor cut yourself some bamboo to fashion a slide for them :P) toss the noodles into one large shared, or a few small individual, bowls of ice water.
Another great thing about this Japanese recipe is… you don’t have to follow the recipe! At least not in terms of toppings – use as many or as few as you like from among our suggestions below, or try your own!
- Scallions . . . 6 stalks
- Myoga (Japanese ginger) . . . 2 buds
- Kinshi tamago . . . 1 egg’s worth
- Grated ginger . . . 1-2 cm piece
- Shiso . . . about 5 leaves
- Chicken tenders . . . 4
Salt . . . a pinch
Sake . . . 2 tablespoons
- Dried shiitake mushroom . . . 2-3
Sake . . . 25 mL
Mirin . . . 25 mL
Soy sauce . . . 20 mL
Sugar . . . 1 tablespoon
Reserved soaking liquid . . . 100 mL
Put the sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, shiitake and 100 mL of the shiitake soaking liquid in a pot. Cook over low heat with a drop lid for 15 minutes. Slice the shiitake.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the somen, cooking according to package instructions (usually 1-3 minutes). Drain and thoroughly rinse the somen under cold running water, rubbing with your hands to remove excess starch (but let it cool down under the water a little first!)