Somen is a very thin noodles made from wheat flour. It is mostly eaten in summer when people want to feel the freshness of cold noodles. It is often sold as dried noodles, and the dough is made by mixing flour, salt, and water. Oil such as cottonseed oil, flour, or starch will be coated on the dough. The dough will be flattened until it gets thin enough, and stretched into noodles. Hand-pulling somen noodles is called “tenobe-somen.”
Somen is usually served as cold noodles, by boiling the noodles in hot water, then wash the noodles with cold water. Seasonings such as green onion, ginger, Japanese basil, sesame, and dried seaweed is often added on the side.
The noodles will be dipped into a soup made with soy sauce, broth, sweet cooking rice wine, and sugar, which is sweet and salty. The ingredients for the broth used are different depending on each region, but dried bonito, dried shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms are regular ingredients.
There are different ways to eat somen. When somen is served in a bowl filled with hot soup, it is called “nyu-men.” In Kansai region, ingredients such as ham and cucumber are topped on the noodles. You can add ingredients on the noodles and make a creative dish of your own.
There is a unique way to eat somen, which is called “nagashi-somen.” It uses bamboo poles which is chopped in half vertically, joined together like a flume, and will be filled with flowing water. The noodles are put in the water, and race down the poll. People use chopsticks to catch the noodles, and eat them directly. “Nagashi-somen” is a popular summer event where people have lots of fun.