July 4, 2014 12:04 pm
Updated: July 5, 2014 9:39 am

Somen Noodles

Authentic Japanese recipes you can really understand, using ingredients you can actually find.

Ingredients (serves 4):

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 3/4 tsp dashi powder
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

Garnish: Choose your favourite of:

  • Grated ginger
  • Thinly sliced green onion
  • Wasabi

Noodles:

  • 4 bundles of somen noodles
  • Large bowl of ice water

Method:

  1. Prepare the sauce. In a measuring cup, dissolve the stock powder in about ¼ cup of boiling water. Pour in the remaining water (simply fill up to 1 cup mark in a measuring cup) and then mix in the other sauce ingredients. Chill in the fridge, and divide into individual cups or bowls for dipping.
  2. Prepare the garnishes. Thinly slice green onions, grate some ginger, and prepare wasabi powder by mixing it with water. Put each in its own small bowl or plate.
  3. Boil and cool the noodles. Boil plenty of water in a large pot. In the meantime, prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the water is at a rolling boil, cook the somen for about 2 minutes. Drain and run under fresh, cool, water, and then drop the noodles into the ice water bath. Put your hand into the noodle/ice-water bath and vigorously shake the noodles until they (and your hand) are well-chilled.
  4. Serve and eat! Bring the large bowl of icy-cold noodles to the table. Give each person their own bowl of dipping sauce, and let them choose their favourite garnish to drop in. Pick up one-bite portions of noodles from the communal bowl, let them drain for a moment, and then dunk them into your dipping sauce to pick up the fresh, salty flavour. Eat. Repeat.

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For extra fun – try nagashi somen!

Want a little extra excitement for your backyard party? Send your noodles slip-sliding down a waterslide and watch as your guests try to catch their meal with chopsticks! Nagashi somen (flowing noodles) is a popular Japanese summertime party, and a way to combine a dinner party with a pool party.

The history: Back when ice was a major luxury, the Japanese would cut a long piece of bamboo in half lengthwise, and build a water slide running from a cool stream into their picnic area. The host would bring a bowl of noodles to the water source and send bite-sized portions down the chute, to be caught, dipped, and eaten by the rest of the group.

Try it yourself: You can re-create this piece of Japanese party culture in your own backyard.

  1. Make the chute: If you can get your hands on a piece of bamboo, cut it lengthwise and pop or saw out the hard membranes in the middle. Bungee, tape, or tie the bamboo to a stairway, out of a kitchen window, or along a maze of sawhorses or chairs, and fasten a hose to the top. No bamboo? No problem. Improvise with a series of pop bottles cut in half and taped together, or use half of a corrugated tube. Use your imagination – the purpose of this is not to be pretty, but just to have fun. Prop a colander at the end of the chute to catch what slips through the chopsticks. Any sneaky noodles that make it past the guests can be walked back up to the top for a second turn at the waterslide.
  2. Gather guests: Give each a bowl of dipping sauce and a pair of chopsticks (wooden chopsticks are the best for catching slippery noodles), and make sure that everyone is wearing clothes they don’t mind getting a little bit wet.
  3. Start eating! Turn on the water and drop small bundles of noodles down the slide. It might take some practice to grab the noodles, but that’s part of the fun!
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