Often less well-known in North America than other Japanese noodles like ramen, udon, and soba, somen are thin wheat noodles popular in not just Japanese cuisine, but certain Korean and Chinese dishes as well.
Unlike the aforementioned noodle types, somen noodles are both straight and extremely thin. This is achieved not by cutting the dough, but by stretching until it becomes very long and skinny. Because they’re so thin, somen cook to al dente super quickly — generally about two minutes — and depending on the dish you’ll often want to dunk them in cold water directly after boiling to prevent them from over-cooking. This leaves the noodles with a springy, satisfying texture.
There are many popular ways to enjoy somen, but one of the most common in Japan is as a cold summertime dish. Most popular is dipping cold somen in tsuyu sauce of dashi, mirin, soy, and other ingredients, similar to that which you’d find served alongside agedashi tofu. The combination of sauce and noodle structure gives diners a chewy, substantial texture and flavorful umami taste.
During cooler weather, however, somen can be found in hot dishes and soups. In Korea especially, there are many hot and cold dishes using somen.
No matter what somen dishes you’re making, you can find many brands of dried noodles in the Grocery aisle of all our Uwajimaya stores.