Hot summer days call for cold somen noodles. This delicious dish is a staple in Japanese cuisine when the weather reaches boiling point. Simply serve the noodles over ice and dip in the chilled Tsuyu broth for a refreshing and cooling meal. All it takes is 15 minutes to make this light and simple dish!
What are Somen Noodles?
Somen are a type of white Japanese noodles made from wheat flour. They are similar to udon noodles but they are very thin- only about 1mm in diameter. This makes them very easy to cook since it just takes a couple of minutes in boiling hot water for them to be ready. They are usually served cold with a light dipping sauce/broth but can also be served hot, which is called nyumen.
Where to Buy Somen?
Somen is sold dry in packets. You can find it in Asian and Japanese grocery stores. You can also find it in some larger supermarkets if you are lucky as I have seen somen being sold there before.
How to Cook Somen Noodles?
Somen noodles cook very quickly because of how thin they are. They only require 2-3 minutes of boiling in a pot. Make sure to stir occasionally while cooking to avoid the noodles sticking together. Once cooked, the noodles will have a soft bouncy texture and be slightly translucent. After they have finished boiling, wash the noodles under running water. This is necessary to remove the excess vegetable oil used in the manufacturing of somen noodles. Afterwards, transfer the noodles straight into a bowl of ice water to prevent further cooking and to allow them to become chilled.
Mentsuyu- The Tasty Dipping Sauce
Somen noodles are served with a chilled dipping sauce called Tsuyu (or mentsuyu- men means noodles). It is refreshing, light, and full of umami flavor. This delicious umami comes from the Japanese dashi broth base it is made of. Soy sauce and mirin are added along with the dashi to create the dipping sauce. Feel free to add a bit of sugar too if you like it more sweet. Mentsuyu can also be bought pre-made in stores and online. However make sure to follow the package instructions as it may need to be diluted.
What goes well with Somen: Topping Options
Chilled somen noodles make a great dish because you can make it in bulk and serve with a variety of toppings to suit many tastebuds.
Common and popular toppings include thinly sliced ham, julienned cucumber, and thin strips of egg omelette called kinshitamago. Other topping ideas are sliced okura, mizuna, radish, and bean sprouts, simmered shiitake mushrooms in sweet soy sauce, and cooked shrimp.
Somen noodles can also be served on their own with simple garnishes to add flavor.
Garnishes : Yakumi
Serving the noodles plain with just a few simple garnishes to add a nice bite is a great way to enjoy this dish since the flavor primarily comes from the tsuyu dipping sauce. The best way to serve with garnishes is by adding them directly to the tsuyu. This makes the dipping sauce even more flavourful and aromatic. Garnishes such as finely chopped scallions and grated ginger work very well. Thinly sliced myoga or shiso leaf are also great options if you have access to them.
Tips for Making Delicious Somen Noodles
- The trick to making somen noodles delicious is to cook somen noodles in a large pot with plenty of hot water so that the noodles will not stick together. you will need about 6 1/2 cups of water (1-1.5L) to cook 1 bundle (I used one bundle is 90g).
- Also washing cooked somen noodles under the running water to keep somen noodles from sticking each other and also cool the noodles. Once the sliminess is removed, drain the water.
A : Uncooked dry somen noodles will keep long if you keep it well ventilated and not in direct sunlight. Somen easily absorbs other foods aromas so caution is required not to store near foods with strong aromas such as garlic and ginger. Cooked somen noodles can be stored in the freezer. Place one serving in a ziplock bag to freeze. When you eat it, just blanch it in hot water or add to other dishes like miso soup.
- 90 g Dry somen noodles one bundle of the brand I buy is 90g
- 1/2 cups of dashi stock you can make this 1/2 cup water adding 1/2 tsp dashi powder
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs mirin
- 1 atsuyaki tamago
- 2 okura
- 2 radish
- bean sprouts and mizuna leaves to garnish
- ginger 3cm piece grated
- 1 tbs finely chopped negi shallots
- wasabi optional
Make the dipping sauce
- Boil 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan, add 1/2 tsp dashi powder, soy sauce and mirin. Turn the heat off and cool the dipping sauce completely then refrigerate to chill.
Prepare the toppings and yakumi
- Slice the atsuyaki tamago 5mm thick, slice the okura and the radish thinly, cut the bean sprouts about 2-3 cm long and wash the mizuna leaves.
- Grate the ginger and cut the negi shallots finely.
Cook Somen noodle
- Boil water (1- 1.5 liters or 6½ cups) in a large stock pan, add 1 bundle of somen noodle and cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain the water and under the running water, wash and cool down the somen noodle.
- Serve the noodle with a few ice cubes, top with sliced atsuyaki tamago, okura, radish, mizuna, bean sprouts, negi shallots, and ginger.
- Pour the dipping sauce over or you can serve the noodles and dipping sauce separately.