Udon, Soba, and Ramen are the most well-known Japanese noodles among foreigners. But Japanese people certainly add Somen to this list. Somen are very thin noodles, yet they are not too soft. They are made from flour, just like Udon, but are knead during the cold winter, which gives Somen a smooth yet strong texture. Somen is an ideal food to eat when you don’t have too much of an appetite during Japan’s hot summer. Somen is served cold, and it cools one’s throat! This is a perfect lunch for many Japanese during the summer because it is quick and easy to make. It takes only 1-2 minutes to boil! There are various regional presentations of these noodles, such as the hot Somen called Nyumen, and Okinawa style stir-fried Somen with vegetables.
Sakuri city in Nara prefecture is said to be the birthplace of Somen. Traditional production methods are still used there today; Kneading well after mixing flour, salt and water, then adding a bit of vegetable oil, flour, or rice flour over the dough. Finally, the dough is stretched, flattened and let to dry.
For cold Somen, after washing the hot Somen with cold water with ice to cool them completely, you dip your noodles into a salty sauce made of soy sauce, fish or seaweed broth and sweet sake. You may then add chopped green onion, ginger paste, sesame, myoga (Japanese ginger), seaweed, Oba (perilla) and so on. You can also add a pickled salty plum to give a refreshing after taste as well. Different regions use different vegetables as toppings for the dish.
Nagashi-Somen is the ritual of eating cold Somen with a group of friends and family. You cut a bamboo in half and use it as a slide. You catch Somen sliding from the top with your sauce bowl and chopsticks! Kyoto had a 25-meter Somen slide set up on the stairs at the Kyoto railroad station in 2013. The speed of running Somen at this special display was more than 30 kilometers per hour, a new world record!
Nara signature product JR Nara Station Museum shop
1-1 Sanjohonmachi Nara-shi Nara-ken
Sakurai City Office
432-1 Odono Sakurai-shi Nara-ken