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A photo of an appetizing bowl of thin somen noodles, with some tsuyu sauce on the side
A photo of an appetizing bowl of thin somen noodles, with some tsuyu sauce on the side

Noodle Slides?! A Quick Guide to Nagashi Somen

Adam LabrinyAdam Labriny
Published Time
Posted on August 31, 2022

Japanese noodles are known around the world. I mean, who doesn’t love digging into a big bowl of ramen? You’ve probably also tried– or at least heard of– udon and soba noodles, too. But the Japanese noodle universe is vast and uncharted, so today, we’re focusing on a lesser-known Japanese noodle: somen. 

What are somen noodles?

Somen noodles are long, thin, white noodles made from wheat flour. They have a mild flavor and a soft texture. After being boiled, they’re quickly cooled under running water and served chilled or over ice. 

Dried bunches of somen noodles laying across a wooden cutting board
Somen noodles come dried and tied in a perfectly measured bunch! Image via Shutterstock

Somen noodles are traditionally eaten with tsuyu, a tasty dipping sauce made from dashi (soup stock) and soy sauce. Since cold somen noodles have little flavor, dipping them in salty and flavorful tsuyu is a must. They’re served with a variety of garnishes, including sesame, wasabi paste, shredded seaweed, chopped green onions, grated ginger– the list goes on!

Is all this talk about Japanese noodles making you hungry? Let TokyoTreat help you out with that! TokyoTreat sends tasty and exclusive Japanese noodles, sweets, snacks, drinks, and much more right to your door in one convenient box. Enjoy a taste of Japan wherever you are! 

What are flowing noodles?

Nagashi somen, also known as “flowing noodles”, is a relatively new evolution in the way that Japanese people eat somen noodles. Somen noodles have been a staple of Japanese cuisine since the eighth century and traditionally are served stationary and on a dish. It wasn’t until 1959 that one Japanese noodle restaurant, the House of Chiho, changed how Japanese people would eat somen forever!

A small bunch of noodles flowing down a bamboo chute
Down the slide, the somen noodles go! Who’s gonna catch them? Nobody knows!!! Image via Shutterstock

This restaurant was in a town called Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture, famous for its pure spring water. To make the eating experience more fun, the restaurant started running cold spring water down super-long bamboo chutes. 

As the water flowed, the staff would place small amounts of cooked somen noodles at the top of the slide while yelling, “Ikuyo!” or “Here it comes!” The flowing noodles would shoot down the slide into the eagerly awaiting customers’ chopsticks! 

Two customers hold chopsticks and grab noodles from a bamboo chute
Are your chopstick skills up for catching these fast-moving Japanese noodles? Image via Shutterstock

If you feel like you’d have difficulty snatching the flowing noodles, you’re not alone! Most restaurants have a basket at the end of the bamboo slide to save all the somen noodles that don’t get caught. So don’t fret. Regardless of your chopstick prowess, you can still get tasty Japanese noodles! 

When do people eat nagashi somen?

Flowing noodles are generally eaten in the summer. Japanese summers are hot and humid, so people eat these refreshing chilled somen noodles to cool down! While many restaurants serve flowing noodles, most Japanese people eat them at outdoor summer parties or with their family at home! 

There’s a saying here in Japan: “As the summer approaches and the temperatures rise, department store shelves fill with noodle slides!” (So that’s not a saying, but it IS true!!) 

A nagashi somen bamboo slide with a cup on it.
Have you ever had nagashi somen before? Image via Shutterstock

You can find SO many different types of noodle slides in Japan! They range from simple and traditional bamboo slides to brightly colored, windy plastic slides that would look more like home in a water park than a kitchen table! 

We want to hear your thoughts! Do you want to try nagashi somen in Japan? What do you think of the modern noodle slides? Let us know in the comments below!

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