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