Zaru Soumen for a Summer Night
Summers in Japan are disgustingly hot and humid. (Not unlike most of the U.S. and the rest of the northern hemisphere these days…)
When I worked in Japan, I used to suffer a tragic loss of appetite every summer. The sweltering heat and humidity would suppress my (usually impressive) desire to eat.
Only zaru soumen sustained me; I practically lived on it.
And really, what better way to combat the heat than with icy cold weightless noodles dipped into (and slurped out of) a tangy gingery sauce?
Zaru soumen to the rescue!
Zaru means “colander” or strained noodles. In other words, chilled and not in a broth. The perfect not-too-filling meal for a summer evening.
Admittedly, it’s not filling at all. (Even Japanese friends of mine would joke that eating soumen makes you quickly become re-hungry.) But sometimes in the summer, that’s all the appetite I can muster.
This type of soumen is also one of the tastiest things you can buy at Japanese convenience stores in the summer. (Yes, you can buy whole, healthy meals at convenience stores in Japan! … please note that I said this is one of the tastiest; not one of the healthiest.)
The conbini version of zaru soumen comes pre-packaged with a little side of scallions, a little side of ginger, and a plastic pouch of mentsuyu (noodle dipping sauce) to empty into a hollowed out bowl in the plastic.
I have purchased this exact item far more times than I care to admit.
It’s quite simple to make your own zaru soumen at home, once you find a place to buy the noodles.
You can make up your own dipping sauce, too; there’s no single way to do it. Some Asian markets sell pre-made “Soumen Tsuyu,” but the ingredients are just soy sauce, dashi (bonito flavor), and mirin. Likewise, the ponzu that I like to use– diluted with a little water– contains basically soy sauce, dashi, and citrus juice.
I’ve given some tangy dipping sauce suggestions in the recipe below, but you can play with it and come up with your own. (And let me know if you create something ingenious!)
If this post helped rescue at least one person from a scorching summer night lack-of-an-appetite, then my work here is done.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
~ 6 oz. dried soumen (or “somen”) noodles
~ 2 scallions, chopped
~ 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
~ pinch of sesame seeds
~ dab of wasabi
~ use a ratio of 2:1 ponzu to water
~ OR: use dashi with a small splash of soy sauce, and a smaller splash of mirin
~ OR: use soy sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little water
How to make it:
1. Cook soumen noodles according to package directions. (In my case this meant bringing a pot of water to a boil and adding the soumen. Once it looked bubbly and ready to boil over, I added almost a cup of cold water, then turned off the flame and left it for 2-3 minutes before draining).
2. Drain the noodles and rinse immediately with cold water (you can even toss an ice cube or two into the colander).
3. Dice the scallions and grate the ginger. Prepare a dipping sauce.
4. Serve cold by arranging the noodles on plates (no fancy bamboo colanders necessary) with individual small dishes for the dipping sauce. Each person can then season their own dipping sauce with ginger, scallions, sesame seeds, and/or wasabi to taste.
Print this recipe! (PDF)