I cannot remember whether it was 2008 or 2009 when I was first properly introduced to summertime somen noodles. Oddly enough, it was not in Japan but in San Francisco at a Joy of Sake event held at the St. Regis Hotel. At that time, I was the executive chef of Ame (in the St Regis) and Chef Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani were the restaurant operators.
A few weeks before the event, Hiro sent me a list of all the things to order/prepare for the event. He told me they would bring the rest. Fast forward to the day of the event, Hiro and Lissa met me and another cook at the event. We started to unload a ton of props from their car. They seemed giddy and it wasn’t long after (as we are setting up!) that I realized what we were actually doing.
We were essentially building a bamboo marble run/waterslide made for somen. Here’s how it would work: you would drop cooked somen noodles at the top of the waterslide into the running water. The noodles would slide down, zig zagging to the end. Then Lissa and Hiro would catch them at the bottom, shake off the excess water, place them in a bowl of seasoned chilled dashi broth and serve them to hungry attendees. From there, they could add nori, sliced negi and wasabi to their liking. So fun, so easy, so awesome.
It was such a cool contraption for an event like that, but what was even cooler is that this, believe it or not, happens all over Japan in the summertime! I know because I have since tried it. Some are more elaborate, some are not, but regardless it’s fun and super tasty!
We are not suggesting you build this somen waterslide, but we are suggesting you try some of these amazing chilled noodles in the heat of this summer.
In fact, right now as I am writing this, I am about to leave to pick up my son from his sports camp and I have packed some chilled cooked somen noodles and dashi for his snack when he gets in the car hot and famished.
Photo courtesy of Hiro Sone