Skip to content

Zaru Soumen for a Summer Night

July 30, 2012

Zaru Soumen with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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.

Zaru Soumen with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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 Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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.

Zaru Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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.

Japanese convenience store zaru soumenJapanese convenience store Zaru Soumen.

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.

Zaru Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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!)

Zaru Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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)


Zaru Soumen

(Serves 2)

~ 6 oz. dried soumen (or “somen”) noodles
~ 2 scallions, chopped
~ 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
~ pinch of sesame seeds
~ dab of wasabi

Dipping sauce:
~ 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

Zaru Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

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)

Zaru Soumen - Chilled Japanese Noodles with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Related posts:
> Naengmyon (Cold Korean Noodles)
> Iced Mugi-cha (Roasted Barley Tea)
> Travel Photos: Kyoto Tofu and Takamatsu Udon

23 Comments leave one →
  1. littlefashionistas permalink
    July 30, 2012 8:01 am

    Yummy food!!! thanks for sharing ;-)

  2. July 30, 2012 8:24 am

    This sounds so light refreshing AND satisfying! I look forward to giving this a shot :)

    • July 30, 2012 11:35 am

      Yay, I hope you like it! Zaru soumen is all of those things for sure. :)

  3. July 30, 2012 9:03 am

    I’m with you, my appetite is non-existent in the summertime. I’d love a nice light meal like this!

    • July 30, 2012 11:32 am

      Yes, it’s seriously perfect for super hot weather (especially if you don’t have air conditioning), when you just want something refreshing and light, but don’t even want to feel full.

  4. July 30, 2012 1:08 pm

    I have never seen this dish before, it looks exotic and delicious :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    • July 31, 2012 10:19 am

      It’s definitely delicious, and very simple to make! You might be more familiar with zaru soba? Exact same concept but with slightly heavier and darker buckwheat noodles. (I love that dish, too, but prefer soumen like this, and soba in soups.)

  5. July 31, 2012 3:22 pm

    This looks super crazy good Allison – I am so making this! :) I imagine any good asian noodle would do the trick?

    • July 31, 2012 10:33 pm

      Awesome! Yes, in Japan this dish can be prepared with various types of noodles; it’s made with either soumen, soba, or udon. Zaru soumen is the lightest of those variations, but zaru soba is probably even more common and is the healthiest.

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook permalink
    August 1, 2012 10:02 pm

    YUM! It’s so true – Japanese summer is unbearable and I haven’t gone back to Japan in summer for more than 10 years I think… I’m planning to go back next summer and I’m a bit worried. But I love eating somen, soba, anything cold this weather. Oishisou!!

    • August 2, 2012 9:53 am

      Yep, summers there are no fun. (Except for festivals and fireworks!) Since I’ve been a graduate student, all of my recent Japan trips had to be in the summer– when I was on break from classes– except for last fall when I finally got to visit in a different season to collect my dissertation data.

      You’ll be fine, though; Just eat lots of cold soumen and soba, drink lots of ice coffee and mugi-cha, and natsu-bate ki o tsukete ne!

  7. August 2, 2012 12:15 am

    What brand of ponzu do you like? I love zaru soba (so would swap out the noodles) but I haven’t found a premade dipping sauce that I like, and the ones I’ve made have been time consuming (starting with making dashi…). I love your simple suggestions!

    • August 2, 2012 9:59 am

      I usually just buy any kind of dark (containing soy sauce) ponzu. Right now I have a bottle of Kikkoman brand ponzu, which I think is perfect for dipping most gyoza or dumplings in. It’s a little strong/salty for zaru soba and zaru soumen, though, so that’s why I suggested watering it down quite a bit.

      The “Soumen Tsuyu” (specifically a dipping sauce for noodles) that I’ve occasionally gotten at Japanese supermarkets (like Mitsuwa) has an entirely-Japanese label, but that brand is Marukin.

  8. August 2, 2012 2:53 am

    This is my kind odf speedy food! :) I love this tasty & appetizing dish! :)

  9. niki permalink
    August 11, 2012 2:50 am

    Looks delicious and as you said perfect for a summer night! I will try this :)


  1. Giveaway! + Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings & Quick Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono) « spontaneous tomato
  2. Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Leeks (Kabocha Soup) « spontaneous tomato
  3. Japanese Tofu (two ways) and Kurogoma Dressing | spontaneous tomato
  4. Vietnamese Style Soba Noodle Salad | spontaneous tomato

I love, love, love reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: