Hot and humid Japanese summers call for light, refreshing ‘stamina’ foods to help you keep your cool. These very fine wheat noodles are served cold, sometimes over ice with a salty dipping sauce on the side which is sometimes seasoned with refreshing, appetite stimulating and fatigue combatting rice vinegar. Nutrient rich and cooling condiments are often added and in recent years sweet, ripe tomatoes have become a popular addition to somen dishes.
- 4 x 100 g bundles of somen noodles (see Note)
- your choice of optional toppings (see Note)
- cucumber, tomato, kombu and green onion, diced, to serve
Mentsuyu (dipping sauce)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) sake
- 125 ml (½ cup) mirin
- 125 ml (½ cup) usukuchi (light) Japanese soy
- 375 ml (1 ½ cups) full-flavoured dashi
- ½ - 1 tsp sugar, depending on taste
- 60 ml (¼ cup) rice vinegar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 1 hour 30 minutes
Bring a large pot of water to the boil for cooking the noodles.
Put the sake, mirin, soy, dashi and sugar in a saucepan, stir to combine then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the vinegar and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until cold.
To cook the somen you can either add the loose noodles to the boiling water or, for a neater presentation, especially for a formal meal - tie a piece of cooking twine tightly around one end of each somen bundle before adding to the pot. Cook for 90 seconds to 2 minutes according to manufacturer’s instructions then drain carefully, rinsing with cold running water.
The somen should be tender but a little al dente. If the somen are in bundles - make sure you keep each separate and lay them on a large cutting board. Cut off the tied, uncooked ends of the somen and discard. Holding together one end of each cooked somen bundle, neatly arrange in a pleasing rounded shape, folded or swirled, over crushed ice on a really hot day, or simply divide the loose cooked noodles into a chilled bowl or a flattish woven Japanese basket. Divide the chilled dipping sauce in 4 small bowls (eg rice bowl) and serve alongside the noodles. If you wish, offer tiny dishes of 2 or 3 additional condiments for adding to the sauce as you dip.
• Somen noodles come loosely tied into bundles for serving portions. These noodles will need to be tied into smaller bundles than what they come in.
• Try adding one or a few of the following toppings: finely chopped spring onions, finely chopped ripe tomato, finely sliced shiso leaf, diced cucumber, small pieces of wakame seaweed, toasted sesame, grated ginger, wasabi.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.