Udon, soba, ramen—we’re all familiar with the usual roster of Japanese noodles. But in the summer, there’s nothing better than somen
These delicate wheat flour noodles, as thin as an angel hair pasta, appear in hot soups throughout the year. But in the summer, they’re more often eaten ice-cold, plucked with chopsticks from a coldwater bath. “Japanese consume them in enormous quantities to stay cool,” writes Sonoko Sakai in the Los Angeles Times
. The noodles are then dunked in a broth of soy, mirin, and other seasonings to lend them flavor and spice.
While the noodles themselves might not be particularly remarkable, the fun comes in the eating rituals. Eating the noodles from a bath of ice water makes them particularly refreshing. But in Japan itself, many restaurants set up bamboo chutes that cradle a river of ice water, sending the somen on a chilled waterslide from which diners can grab noodles with their chopsticks. In fact, somen are so popular in Japan that the toy company Bandai even designed a "somen waterslide
" from which Japanese tykes can eat their own.
Whether or not you have a waterslide—or even a bamboo noodle river—there's still plenty of summer fun to be had with a bowl of icy somen, a perfect foil to July heat.
Picture from istockphoto.com