Somen is a very popular light summer dish made from white wheat flower. The dried noodles are broiled, rinsed in cold water and eaten with a cold dipping sauce.
Because somen noodles are made from a hard wheat flour slightly moistened with cotton seed oil or sesame seed oil, it is better not to touch them directly with fingers when the noodles are still luke-warm.
In some districts, somen are streamed down in a long pipe made of split bamboo, and diners are supposed to scoop the noodles out of the streaming water with their chopsticks.
Noodles called hiyamugi are quite similar to somen. Hiyamugi noodles are about 1.5 mm. in diameter while somen are about 1.0 mm. There is another type of somen, called tamago somen, which is enriched with egg yolk, giving it a light yellow color.
4 bundles somen
4 shiso leaves
(a) 1 cup dashi stock
2T mirin (sweet sake)
3-4T soy sauce
Ready-to-use dipping sauce for somen is also available at neighborhood supermarkets.
(1) Dipping sauce: Combine ingredients (a) in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Chill.
(2) Boil plenty of water in a large saucepan. Drop in the somen and stir briefly with chopsticks (or fork). Let water come to the full boil again, then add 1/2 cup cold water. When it reaches the boiling point, drain the noodles in a colander and run cold water over them. The somen should not be soft and limp.
(3) When the temperature of the somen becomes cold, rub the noodles vigorously with the hands to remove surface starch. Drain and chill.
(4) Cut shiso into fine strips and soak in cold water for five minutes to remove harsh taste. Drain.
(5) Arrange somen in individual dishes with chives and shiso. Serve with small dishes for dipping sauce.
NOTE: Normally chilled somen is garnished with just chives or shiso, but the following may also be added.
“Shredded chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Boil in water and drain. Shred.
*Boiled shrimp. Divide and boil shrimp in salted water. Drain and shell.