Tsuru tsuru! That’s the sound I made when I slurped up cold somen during a heat wave in Los Angeles. With 100-degree temperatures in the middle of spring, I desperately needed something to cool me down. Somen is typical summer food in Japan because it’s light, served cold, and fantastically refreshing. The bonus is you don’t have to labor over a hot stove—it’s almost as quick to prepare as it is to slurp up. On a sweltering hot day, the cool noodles, the salty goodness of the tsuyu (dipping sauce), and the bite of the wasabi make for a perfect meal. This was going to hit the spot.
Somen is a thin wheat noodle served in cold ice water. The tsuyu is very concentrated because the noodles don’t sit in the broth like hot udon or soba. Instead, you scoop some noodles, quickly dip in the tsuyu and tsuru tsuru! This is a very interactive meal that allows you to adjust the saltiness of the broth (thinning it out with water or adding more tsuyu) and add various toppings as you go.
I kept the toppings simple: thinly sliced cooked egg, mominori (crushed seaweed), wasabi, sesame, and green onion. The somen took 3 minutes to cook, the egg—cooked like a crepe—takes about the same amount of time, and the rest is just chopping. It’s a fast and hassle-free meal to prepare.
Makes 2 servings
Tsuyu (dipping sauce)
Between ⅓ to ½ cup dashi
1½ Tbsp. shoyu
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 large egg, beaten
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 sheet of nori
1 tsp. sesame seeds
Combine the tsuyu ingredients and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate until cold.
In a 10” nonstick skillet, heat ½ tsp of oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, rub the pan with a paper towel to distribute the oil and wipe any excess.
Add the egg and tilt the pan so the bottom of the skillet is evenly covered. Cook until the egg firms up, but still looks wet on the surface. Carefully loosen the edges of the egg from the skillet and turn over. Immediately turn off the heat. Wait a minute for it to cook in the residual heat before transferring to a cutting board to cool.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. While waiting, slice the egg round into quarters. Stack the quarters and slice thinly.
When the pot of water comes to a rolling boil, add two servings of somen (they usually come tied in 1-serving bunches). Cook according to package instructions. Meanwhile, prepare a dish to hold the cooked somen. Add some ice cubes and water in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.
When the somen is finished cooking, drain and rinse with cold water. Then, using your hands, gently rub the noodles together under running water to remove any excess starch. Drain, then add to the serving dish with ice water.
Pour dashi into small bowls and serve with somen and toppings.