Friday, May 13, 2011

Somen--Japanese Cold Noodles

There's a few changes going on around FOODjimoto, behind the scenes.

Kyle Spearrin, Mitchell's brother and computer expert, has been helping us add a reply button in the comments section and connect to our Facebook page.

We're also working on making the recipes printable--that part still needs work on my part, but we're getting there.

Thanks, Kyle!

When the weather warms up, right away there's talk about having Somen--Japanese-style cold noodles.

Last week, my son Rick made some, and suggested that I make some too!

You can make it as fancy or as simple as you like.

When I was little, we ate somen like this--with toppings--and then the sauce (container on the right) is poured over the noodles and it's eaten like a cold noodle soup.

In my husband's family, they serve plain noodles on a dish.

Then they dip the noodles in the sauce--with a little bit of green onions and ginger in it--with their ohashi (chopsticks).

They eat it with the sauce on the side.

Anyway you choose, it's delicious!

Somen was the first dish I made for the kids next door, after they moved here from Taiwan. 

They liked it so much, they made it at home for themselves at lunchtime while their parents were at work!

Start with some dried shiitake mushrooms, about 6 of them.

You can also use fresh.

I bought these at Nijiya Market, but any kind will do.

Put the dried shiitakes in a bowl with some warm water.

Put another bowl on top of them to keep them underwater so they'll hydrate.

It will take at least 30 minutes.

Next, the eggs.

To make the egg threads, put a frying pan on the stove to preheat it, then crack an egg in a small bowl.

Scramble the egg well.

Spray a little non-stick cooking spray in the pan and add the beaten egg.

This pan is 7 1/2 inches at the bottom and works well for this.

A bigger one is okay, the egg pancakes don't need to be the same size, you'll be slicing them up.

Swirl the egg around in the pan until it coats the bottom of the pan.

Adjust the heat so the egg doesn't brown.

Loosen the edge a little with a spatula.

When it starts to curl, flip the egg pancake over.

I just use my fingers.

Cook it a minute more, and remove from pan to cool.

Make 2 to 4 of them, depending on how much you like eggs.

Stack them up and let them cool.

To make the dashi--or sauce--I use konbu dashi, made from kelp.

My mother always used Hondashi (brand name), that's a dashi made from bonito fish powder. It's got a good flavor, but it has MSG it in, so I use this one.

This package of Hon Katsuo Dashi--dried bonito fish soup stock--is good too.

I went to Japanese language school when I was little, so I can read a little of the Japanese on the package.

But mostly I know what is it because it has a label on the back in English!

No MSG Added and No Salt Added is what I'm looking for in a dashi.

Add two packets of dashi into a measuring cup.

That's about 2 1/2 teaspoons dashi powder.

Add 1 tablespoon agave nectar or 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

And 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

I'm using this Japanese sea salt.

I'm making a double batch of somen sauce, so I'm adding a scant tablespoon, but ended up adding the rest of the salt because the flavors weren't balanced.

That's because the dashi powder I'm using doesn't have salt.

I like the 'less salt' shoyu, but regular is fine too.

Add 3 tablespoons shoyu.

Kind of confusing, huh, since I'm doubling the recipe.

I'll write it all down at the end of this post.

Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve the ingredients.

I do it this way so the ingredients in the sauce are dissolved, then I pour it over ice cubes to make the sauce cold.

You're going to make one of these.

The other one is for my sister-in-law with the newborn.

When the ice melts, the sauce will be cold and you'll have 3 1/2 cups of somen tsuyu (sauce).

These are the same somen noodles I grew up eating.

There's lots of other brands, any of them are good.

To cook the noodles, boil a large pot of water and have a glass of cold water handy.

When the water is boiling, add one bundle of noodles, a little at a time, stirring constantly to keep the noodles separated.

Be sure to stir them well, otherwise they'll stick together.

The noodles don't take long to cook, they're so thin, only a few minutes.

When the noodles boil and rise, add the glass of cold water.

Turn off the heat, they're done.

Drain the noodles in a colander and cool under cold water.

Use your hand to make sure the noodles are cooled evenly.

Take out any clumps of noodles that might have occurred because you were trying to cook the noodles and take photos at the same time and didn't stir them well enough.

Top with ice cubes or refrigerate the noodles.

A little bit of shrimp is good on somen.

These were frozen, I just boiled them in water for a few minutes until they were firm and curled.

They'll turn bright pink when done.

A little bit on spinach is good as a somen topping too.

Cook until just wilted.


Squeeze out the excess water and roughly chop.

The eggs will be cool by now, roll them up and slice them as thinly as you can.

My Uncle Roy always said the egg should be thin.

I used to cut them in pieces, but learned they're supposed to be in long, golden threads.

Chop some green onion.

Or slice the green onion into threads. 

I did both, the long ones look nice for garnish, since all the other ingredients are long and thin.

The shiitake should be hydrated by now.

We used to use the soaking water for flavor, but I read that you should throw away the first soaking water.

Cut off the stems.

You can see it's not quite fully hydrated.

Slice them and put them in a bowl of clean water.

You can watch them hydrate, it's fast.

A little bit of grated fresh ginger in the sauce is good.

I had this piece in the freezer.

Use a micro-planer or grater.

One tablespoon should do it.

Add a little bit of grated ginger to your sauce, it adds a nice, fresh, tangy taste.



This is Kyle.

He's my son-in-law's brother.
That makes him my family too.

It does, doesn't it?

Kyle and his sister Colleen visited the newlyweds over spring break.

I really like Kyle.

And it's not just because he's good-looking.

Or Mitchell's brother. 

One of the reasons is that he's his sister's best friend.

That alone is enough, right?

Another reason is--when he went hiking with Karen and Mitchell in New Zealand, he waited for her on the trail, while Mitchell went ahead exploring.

He's thoughtful.

I like the things that Karen tells me about her brother-in-law.

She says Kyle's a lot of fun, too.

He's got a lot of patience.

He's been helping me edit HTML.

I get confused.

What clinches the deal for me, is that when they all traveled together from Florida to California for the wedding last year,

Kyle took care of his Nanas.

I have a soft spot in my heart for young men that take care of their Nanas.


1 package Tomoshiraga somen noodles

Cook noodles in 5 1/2 qts. boiling water, adding one bundle a little at a time, stirring constantly so the noodles don't stick together, repeating until desired amount of noodles are added. Cook on high heat until noodles rise, add a cup of cold water, turn off heat, drain & cool noodles.
For Soup:

2 1/2 teaspoons dried bonito fish soup stock or kelp soup stock powder
1 tablespoon agave nectar or 4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons soy sauce
5 cups water

Boil 2 cups water and add ingredients, stir to dissolve. Add ice to make 5 cups of cold noodle sauce.

Condiments: any or all optional

1 lb. small shrimp, cooked
spinach, cooked, squeezed and chopped
3 eggs, each cooked into a thin pancake and sliced thinly
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
6 fresh or dried (and rehydrated) shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root--
put a small amount into individual bowls

shredded chicken breast
kizami shoga--julienne cut red pickled ginger

Serve the noodles with condiments on top or on-the-side, sauce/soup in the bowl, or on-the-side. 


  1. @Kyle

    Yes, that certainly is you!

    I think you're the greatest!

  2. I haven't had somen in awhile. Delicious, Karolyn. Happy Slurp! :)

    Nice to hear about Kyle, a very caring person, indeed. Yes, think he is family. I like all these little stories. He is good-looking, along with his brother. His sister is beautiful. Nice looking families - Spearrin and Fujimoto!!! Love the wedding pic.

  3. Somen is one of my favorite dishes and reminds me of the annual church bazaars held at my great-grandfather's church in Montebello. We used to go every year when I was a kid. Love the new printable recipes!

  4. hi karolyn! thank you very much for this poste- if I live in europe and cannot get the dried bonito fish soup stock can i use fish sauce instead? thanks!