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Noodle Slides?! A Quick Guide to Nagashi Somen

By Adam Labriny
August 31, 2022
A photo of an appetizing bowl of thin somen noodles, with some tsuyu sauce on the side

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 don’t have much 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?

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

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 when one Japanese noodle restaurant, the House of Chiho, changed the way Japanese people would eat somen forever!

This restaurant was in a town called Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture that was 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 and into the eagerly awaiting customers’ chopsticks! 

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

If you feel like you’d have a hard time trying to snatch 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 your fill of tasty Japanese noodles! 

When do Japanese People Eat Nagashi Somen?

Flowing noodles are generally eaten in the summer. Japanese summers are super hot and humid, so Japanese people eat these refreshing chilled somen noodles to cool down! While there are many restaurants that 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 actually a saying, but it IS true!!) 

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

As water flows down the slide, parents place the somen noodles at the top. Their kids catch the flowing noodles as they make their way down the slide.  What a novel way to make dinnertime fun! Check out a noodle slide in action in the video below!

Now that you’ve learned all about flowing noodles, you must be getting hungry. Get your monthly fix of Japanese noodles and other yummy snacks from TokyoTreat! 

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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Author avatar
Adam Labriny

I’m an American living in Japan since 2016 who loves playing saxophone, eating sushi, and exploring this amazing country!

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