Somen, what to do when it’s hot

When the weather is so humid that you need gills to breathe, no one wants to cook.
It’s a riddle.Somen Noodle SaladIt’s hard to be cool as a cucumber when you’re one hot tomato, especially when you enter Hades’ kitchen intent on finding something to eat. Don’t be crabby; maintain your sangfroid! Throw some spaghetti on the wall, and “open sesame“—there’s your menu! And, “Nori a bad word said.”

Somen Noodles with summer vegetables
So, what did I make? tomatoes with salt and pepper, cucumbers and Krab with Nihaizu dressing, gomadare dipping sauce, and somen noodles decorated with nori. As to “nary a negative comment,” this sauce is better with the more sturdy udon or soba—somen are delicate.
Japanese Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

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Somen Noodle Package

Somen are thin Japanese wheat noodles, thin as vermicelli, which slip cooly into your mouth. They are especially suited to meals on hot humid days. They are almost always served cold, on ice, with a strongly flavored dipping sauce that becomes diluted as you eat the noodles.

Here is Elizabeth Andoh describing somen, customs and festivities associated with the noodles, and some recipes. Her excellent book if full of beautiful pictures.

And some of the festivites:

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. Lewis Grizzard

I’m eagerly anticipating some home-grown tomatoes, but going out to our garden every day does not seem to make the little green knobs turn red and luscious.

Japanese Noodle Salad

A number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad. Jane Grigson

Somen with tomatoes and cucumbersIf it were not so humid, one could have such thoughts about tomatoes.

More Japanese Noodle Recipes From Tess

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8 thoughts on “Somen, what to do when it’s hot

  1. Shane,
    Thanks for your comment. Somen used to seem difficult to me until I learned to wash it really well after it’s cooked.

  2. Ohhhh does this look GOOD – She said, broiling away in her teeny apartment while trying to save money by keeping the AC off for a change. :) I think I’m going to try this tonight for dinner! Are the noodles and veggies in cool ice water there, or in the bowl on their own? I bought a bottle of ume flavored somen sauce before I came across your blog – do you think it’ll still work alright with all the added veggies? I’ll try making the dipping sauce you have here for the next time!

    Also, out of curiosity, do you have any secrets for chilling tomatoes without them turning into mush in the refrigerator?

    I love your blog, and have you in my blogroll now! Great stuff here! I’m going to need to get that cookbook. My favorites until now have been “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat” and “Japanese Cooking” by Emi Kazuko. Can’t wait to see more! :)

  3. Saitoko,

    I enjoy your posts as well! You being new to Japan gives your insights a fresh perspective on what it’s like to be there. One of these days I’d like to visit Japan! We are thinking about going to Spain in the fall; my daughter is living in Madrid and it’s so much more fun to visit a place where you know someone who can be a guide.

    I don’t refrigerate tomatoes! except when they are leftover. and they DO get mushy.

    Your ume flavored sauce sounds good! The noodles were in the fridge in water while I cut up the vegetables. Then I drained them and put them on the serving plate so they were pretty cold. I didn’t want the extra water diluting the sesame sauce, which I made because I wanted something a bit more substantial than the usual dipping sauce for Mr. Tess who had worked all day. That sauce is really better with thicker noodles.

    This is the first time I’ve been successful with somen: usually they turn to mush or stick together. I know, it’s simple, but I just never got them right before!!!

  4. Somen are delicate. And I’m no expert. Mostly fail at them? But tsukejiru is good with somen. And shredded nori. The recipe I posted here with sesame sauce is too heavy.
    Tsukejiru Noodle dipping sauce:
    https://1tess.wordpress.com/2008/05/18/tsukejiru-cold-noodle-dipping-sauce/

    If you are having a noodle party (not specific for somen), I’d suggest https://1tess.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/hiyashi-chuka-soba-japanese-summertime-noodles/
    That sauce is great–put it in a pitcher and let your guests serve themselves—and you can set out noodle toppings of all varieties. Just make a lot of the sauce, an assortment of toppings, toasted sesame seeds, and French mustard. (second choice: Or mix up some Japanese mustard powder with water) The toppings should have lots of colors and should include thin omelette strips.
    The hardest part is finding chuka soba. (the noodles)
    just my opinion..
    best wishes

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