somen: the unsung Japanese noodle

It’s somen season, the best summertime-only Japanese noodle in the market. It only needs to be boiled for a couple of minutes so it’s not going to heat up the kitchen. Traditionally, it’s served with a dipping sauce. I’m clumsy, so I usually eat it dressed in a bowl instead.

summer somen bowl:

3 green onions, whites and greens chopped separately
1/2 tbs of good-tasting oil. Lard would be ideal here.

2 bundles of somen noodles

1/2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbs black vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp sambal oelek (wasabi could be subbed)


It could be just the tops of the green onions. I julienned a baby cucumber. Anything hard and crunchy chopped into matchsticks would be great. A hard-boiled egg would be great and so would kimchi. Any meat should taste good cold, as it’s a cold dish.

Chop onions. Separate green from white and light green sections.

Fry just the white and light green parts in oil until it starts to brown. It takes some of the raw onion bite out and makes the onion sweet. Remove from heat once golden brown.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Cook noodles according to package directions but test at the minimal time listed. Soggy somen noodles are not a good thing. If the pot is about to boil over, add a splash of cold water.

Mix sauce.

When noodles have just a slight bite to them but don’t feel chalky, drain under cold water while rubbing the noodles like it’s laundry day and all you have is a washboard. This gets off the surface starch to give the sauce more ability to coat the noodles. Shake off as much water from the noodles as possible.

Mix everything together in a bowl, including the browned onion bits. This makes a good meal portion for a hungry adult. Three bundles would be enough for a very hungry adult with a large appetite. With hard-boiled eggs, it’s a surprisingly good meal to cook when turning on the stove the least matters more than what exactly is being cooked on it.

The original method is using tsume sauce, which is a slightly fishy, slightly smokey soy sauce. It’s served with grated daikon, wasabi and ice cubes and the noodles are dipped into the sauce and slurped. It’s delicious as well, but wearing dark clothing while eating it is an absolute must.

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