Hiyashi Somen: Chilled Noodles with Sauce
With this weather, there’s only one Japanese dish you think of: an ice-cold noodle specialty called Hiyashi Somen.
Besides being delicious, Hiyashi Somen’s also easy to turn from just a meal into an event. If you have a long cane of bamboo handy, you slice it in half, smooth out the inside, and you’re ready to make Nagashi Somen: a bamboo water slide for Somen. Everybody loves this, but especially kids, who have great fun picking out their lunch with their chopsticks as it moves down the half-pipe. (See the video)
I know the very concept of eating ice cold noodles strikes foreigners as especially weird and maybe not so appetizing. But you really should try these: they’re very easy to like. What can I say? On a hot summer day, there’s nothing as refreshing as an ice cold bowl of Somen.
Ingredients (for four)
- Dry Shiitake – two
- Konbu – one small piece
- Sugar – 3 tablespoons
- Sake – 4 tablespoons
- Water – 500cc
- Soy sauce – 6 tablespoons
- Ginger (optional)
- Green onions (Optional)
- Wasabi (Optional)
- Shiso (Optional)
It’s best to prepare the sauce a few hours ahead of time so it has time to cool in the fridge.
- Recompose the shiitake in the water (500cc).
- Discard the shiitake stems and cut the caps in small pieces.
- Place the water you used to recompose the shiitake in a pan, add a piece of konbu and let it boil.
- Skim off any foam that forms.
- Add the sake, sugar, soy sauce and recomposed shiitake. Then bring everything to a boil again.
- Turn off the heat and discard the konbu seaweed.
- Let it cool, preferably in the fridge.
This is my mother’s sauce recipe, which is admittedly sweeter than most. If you find it too sweet, feel free to make it with a little less sugar.
Konbu is just for flavor but the shiitake you can also eat.
Prepare the condiments
Usually, people spice up the sauce at the table with some traditional condiments. The most popular Somen condiments in Japan are green onions, wasabi and grated ginger.
Slice the green onion thin, grate the ginger and cut the shiso leaves. Place then in separate small bowls.
Cook the somen
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot.
- Add somen and stir around a little to keep it from sticking together. Don’t add salt to the water (Somen’s already salted.)
- Boil the somen about two minutes.
When foam comes to the top, blow on the surface. It’ll go down.
Check after two minutes. You don’t want Somen al dente, you want it cooked soft.
- Wash the noodles well with cold water. Massage them with your hands to take away their slimness.
- Place the Somen in a serving bowl in cold water.
- Add plenty of ice cubes and swirl around.
Set out the condiments, the somen in the ice water and scoop out some sauce into a small bowl.
Dress the sauce. Each diner can dress his sauce as he likes. My husband loves it with green onions and ginger. I like wasabi and shiso.
Now, with your chopsticks, pick up a portion of Somen from the cold water bowl. Hold it a few moments to let the extra water drain out into the bowl.
Place the portion of Somen into the sauce bowl, swirl it around a bit, then eat it.
Now, after you’ve done this a few times, the sauce is going to tend to get watery, since you can never get rid of all the ice water.
When that happens, feel free to toss out the watery sauce and pour yourself some fresh sauce.
Be sure to try dressing the sauce a different way each time you do this…little by little, you’ll find which mix is your favorite!