My first encounter with somen noodles was at an elementary school summer festival in Yamaguchi Prefecture 4 years ago. I watched as thin, white noddles were sent sliding down halved bamboo shoots, and children and parents gathered around trying to grab them with their chopsticks on their way down. The noodles that made it down to the bottom of the shoot without being caught were collected in a large bowl, then brought back up to the top to continue their journey again. I thought it was a very intriguing game, and apparently a summer custom.
We decided to try somen noodles, but we didn’t have to catch ours. Traditionally the cooked noodles are kept in a bowl of ice water in the center of the table. People help themselves and dip each bite into a bowl of special dipping sauce – made from a combination of soysauce, mirin, and dashi stock. My wonderful student Rei gave us 6 bundles of dried noodles, a bottle of dipping sauce, and some illustrated directions, so we decided to embrace this Japanese summer meal. Her pictures speak better than my words:
1 bottle of somen sauce – combine 1 part sauce with 3 parts water
fresh grated ginger
2 shiso leaves, thinly sliced
Boil the noodles for 2 minutes only. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. Drain the noodles and rise in cold water until they are cool. Transfer to the ice water.
In a small dish (1 for each person), combine the sauce and water. Add the ginger, wasabi, and shiso.
Take the noodles out of the ice water with chopsticks, dip in your sauce bowl and enjoy!