Seasonal Eating in Japan: Somen Noodles

By Luc Gougeon

Japanese summers are a hot and sticky business, so hot that you often don’t feel like eating anything. Somen noodles are the perfect fix for the summer funk. It’s THE simple, refreshing meal beloved by all Japanese. Somen can be eaten cold or hot, but the cold version is the perfect food to fight the summer heat. It’s also extremely easy to make. No culinary degree required!

The thin somen noodles are made of wheat (they look like a thin version of the popular udon noodles) and they’re sold in little bundles. One bundle should be enough to feed one person, but, if you’re like me, two bundles is just right. Somen are also sometime served in a river stream or long bamboo halves, but at home a simple bowl with ice cubes is all you need. If you’ll be making this dish a lot, numerous electronic cooling devices are sold in Japanese stores.

You will also need a dipping sauce called tsuyu. The sauce is quite easy to prepare, but recently many Japanese are buying premixed sauces. So, just look for somen tsuyu (そめん つゆ) at any grocery store. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make your own sauce, I’ll provide the recipe here.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Somen noodles
  • Ice cubes
  • 100 ml. of mirin
  • 100 ml. of soy sauce
  • 400 ml. of dashi stock

DIRECTIONS:

Sauce:

1.) Bring 100 ml. of mirin to a soft boil.

2.) Mix in 100 ml of soy sauce and 400 ml of basic dashi stock.

3.) Let it cool down and it’s ready to serve.

Optional: You can add grated ginger and diced green onion to your dipping sauce for added flavor.

Noodles:

1.) Bring a pot of water to boil and throw in the noodles. If the pot overflows just add a bit of cold water.

2.) Separate the noodles with chopsticks.

3.) The somen should be cooked in about 2 minutes. When it’s done, empty the pot into a colander and rinse the noodles under cold water. This step is important to remove any traces of starchy stickiness.

4.) Transfer the somen to a serving bowl filled with ice.

5.) Then, just dip the cold noodles into a bowl of tsuyu and slurp away!

The next time you feel like melting after a long day at school, refresh yourself with a bowl of somen. It’s a lot cheaper than buying an air conditioner!

Photo by Andy Heather / Published under Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0.

3 thoughts on “Seasonal Eating in Japan: Somen Noodles

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  2. To spice up your somen dinners, try throwing some crushed sesame seeds and a bit of “taberu rayu” – chunky chili oil that’s all the rage in Japan right now – into the tsuyu. It’s almost like an easy, at-home version of Hiroshima-style tsukemen.

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