Somen to Beat the Hot Days
On a really hot day like today, I want to spend the least amount of time at the stove and eat something refreshing. Something to bring down the temperature. I often tell friends that outside of Japan, New York has the best Japanese food. And despite the fact that there are hundreds of ramen shops (hundreds now, but there were only a few spots that we could drive to from Boston growing up) and a few amazing sobayas, I have yet to find a place to eat some good somen, one of my favorite noodles of all time.
My mom jokes that I ate nothing as a baby except somen. I would slurp these angel hair noodles without chewing once, which may have been the appeal at the time. So what is this noodle that a food addict like me craves so often? The wheat noodles are so thin (approx. 1.3mm) that vegetable oil must be used to help stretch the dough out giving it a distinct scent. The noodles are barely cooked (1-2 minutes in boiling water) and rinsed under cool water and carefully rubbed between two palms to further rinse off the oil used for stretching. The brand to eat is Ibonoito. There are many other brands but all far inferior with their inelastic limp strands.
Once you have the cooled somen noodles ready, all you need to do is dip in the mentsuyu (麺つゆ・dipping sauce) and slurp away. If you keep a stash of the mentsuyu in your fridge at all times, you can have a meal ready in less than 10 minutes (mostly time to boil the water)! I have a sweet spot for the Kikkoman Mentsuyu but you can definitely make it with dashi and some pantry essentials (recipe below).
To spice things up a bit, add some yakumi (薬味・aromatic toppings). Some of my favorites are below (clockwise from 12: wasabi, nori, shichii togarashi, scallions, ginger, shiso). For those of you new to some of these ingredients, I'll be doing a follow up post on spices, herbs, and other pantry items not covered in the essentials.