Somen (cold Japanese noodles)

This is a wonderful meal for the hot days of summer. Somen are a thin wheat noodle that can be found in oriental markets. In a pinch you can use angel hair pasta but the texture is not quite the same. The toppings are almost unlimited and can be a great way to use leftovers. This makes a full meal for 4 or a light meal for 6.

Somen

The noodles:

Cook 4 bundles of somen in plenty of unsalted water until soft, 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and immerse in a bowl of cold water. Stir with your fingers for a moment then set aside (still in the water).

The sauce:

You can buy bottled dipping sauce at Asian markets but they are usually laden with salt and MSG. This is very easy to make and, I think, much tastier.

2 c water
2 large or 3 small dried shitake mushrooms
1 small piece konbu (dried kelp), perhaps 4 to 6 inches square
1 TB sugar
4 TB sake (Japanese rice wine)
6 TB Japanese soy sauce (Kikkoman is widely available and is excellent)

Bring the water to the simmer in a small saucepan. Add the shitake and remove from heat. Let steep until the mushrooms are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, cut off and discard the stems, and chop the caps into small dice. Add the konbu to the mushroom soaking water (the konbu can be broken into a few smaller pieces if needed) and bring back to the simmer. If any foam comes to the surface, skim it off. After a few minutes, return the diced mushrooms to the pan along with all other ingredients. Bring back to a simmer, remove from heat, and discard the konbu. Let the sauce cool and then chill it in the fridge. You definitely want the sauce cold for this dish!

Egg Chiffonade

The goal here is to get an egg pancake that is about 1/8 inch thick. Thoroughly beat 3 large eggs with 2 tsp of soy sauce. Heat a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium low heat and brush the surface with a small amount of oil. Pour in the eggs, cover, and let cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Remove the egg pancake to a cutting board. When cool, cut the egg into thin strips about 2 inches long.

Other Toppings

The possibilities are almost unlimited. Ham or chicken, cucumber, sweet red pepper, lettuce, firm tofu, celery, cherry tomatoes, carrots – just cut into slivers and chill.

Serving

Arrange the toppings on a communal serving plate. Drain the noodles and divide between individual bowls. Divide the sauce between smaller bowls. Some people like to also give each diner a small bowl of freshly grated ginger. Each diner adds toppings to their noodles then, using chopsticks of course, dips some noodles/toppings in the sauce and – down the hatch! Slurping is definitely OK.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ethnic, Pasta, Vegetarian

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