Have you ever been to Japan during summer time? If so, you know that feeling of heat and humidity that sticks to your skin. Then, all you want is to settle down in a cool place and enjoy a light, cold meal. Somen noodles is the perfect meal during those hot days.
The perfect meal to try during summer in Japan
In the West, summer rhythms with salads. In Japan, summer meals are characterized by cold noodles. Udon and soba, enjoyed at room temperature and dipped in a cold broth, are the most famous ones, and not to be missed during sunny days in Japan.
But do you know somen? These noodles, very thin and white, are made from wheat flour, water and salt. In summer, the noodles are cooked in boiling water for 1 minute, then run under cold water to cool them. You eat them by dipping them in tsuyu (a broth) made with soy sauce and dashi (bonito broth)
What are the Nagashi Somen?
A fun way to eat somen in the summer is nagashi somen. But what is it?
Bamboo cut in half lengthwise are installed in the restaurant. The noodles are sent into these bamboo and flow down to you, like on a slide. You have to catch them with your chopsticks. Be careful not to miss your meal, you have to be quick to catch the noodles. The last noodles are usually in a pink color. This marks the end of the meal.
Nagashi somen can be tasted for example in the city of Kifune, north of Kyoto.
Onimaru, a small restaurant specializing in somen in the heart of Osaka
At Peko Peko, our favorite place to enjoy somen is undoubtedly the Onimaru Restaurant, located in the heart of Osaka, not far from Nakanoshima Island. Opened in early 2021, the restaurant is run by a couple from Nara Prefecture.
In Sakurai City, in Nara Prefecture, is Oomiwa Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, with a history dating back over 1,200 years ago. As the population suffered from hunger, the gods answered their prayer by revealing the preparation of the somen. The wheat was spread over the land, harvested, grounded and the flour kneaded with thermal water to form the noodles.
Since then, somen have often been given to the imperial family as a gift as a traditional food representing Japan.
Every week, Mr. Akutagawa thinks about a new way to prepare these delicious noodles. Of course, the traditional way, especially in summer, is to eat them cold. But Mr. Akutagawa likes to get creative and prepares ethnic pho soup inspired somen, or Italian pasta inspired somen with tomatoes and basil.
The restaurant also specializes in rice and offers recipes that showcase this very important ingredient of Japanese food culture. You can taste different onigiri (rice ball) or donburi, the most popular of which is undoubtedly roast beef donburi (rice covered with roast beef).
If you’re in Osaka, don’t hesitate to stop by Onimaru and in the meantime, prepare your own somen (perhaps inspired by Mr. Akutagawa’s recipes) with the noodles that you will receive in your July 2021 Peko Peko Box. Also included in the box, a beautiful glass somen bowl.