Summers in Japan can be brutally hot. A favorite go-to dish on these hot summer days os Japanese cold noodles dishes such as somen. As you slurp cold somen noodles dipped in tsuyu, you feel your body starting to cool in the summer heat.
Sōmen are white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour and they are very thin, about 1 mm in diameter. The dough is stretched with the help of vegetable oil to make very thin strips and then air dried (which is why you need to rinse somen noodles after boiling).
Somen are usually served cold with a dipping sauce called tsuyu. The dipping sauce is same Japanese dashi-based broth used in hot soup, but more concentrated in flavor. The sauce is flavored with scallions and ginger. You can also add shiso leaf or myoga if you can find them at Japanese grocery stores.
Traditional Japanese restaurants tie up the noodles to enhance the appearance of the somen and this is how you do it. Tie the edge of somen noodles with cooking twine. This way noodles will stay in one direction while cooking.
The Dipping Sauce
Here's an easy version of the tsuyu dipping sauce:
- 2 cups unseasoned dashi (Japanese soup stock)
- 5 tablespoons usukuchi shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
- 1 1/2 shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
Toppings to consider:
- ½ inch fresh ginger
- 1 scallion
- Shiso leaves, thinly sliced
- Myoga ginger, thinly sliced
- 3/4 lb - 1 lb dried somen noodles
- For dipping sauce
- 1 1/2 cup kombu and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) dashi
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- For toppings:
- Grated ginger
- Thinly sliced shiso leaves
- Thinly sliced myoga ginger
- Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil.
- Stop the heat. Cool the sauce.
- Boil water in a large pan. Add dried somen noodles in the boiling water, gently stirring noodles with chopsticks.
- Boil somen noodles, following the package instructions. It usually takes a couple minutes to boil. If it's necessary, add a little bit of cold water in the pan to prevent overflowing.
- Drain somen in a colander and cool them under running water or in an ice bath.
- Wash the noodles with hands under running water. (If the noodles were tied, find the knotted parts of somen noodles and pick them up. Cut off the edge and discard.)
- Serve drained cold somen in a large serving bowl.
- Serve dipping sauce in individual cups and place some toppings, such as grated ginger, strips of shiso leaves, and myoga on the side.