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FoodJapanese Cold Somen Noodles そうめん • Just One Cookbook

Japanese Cold Somen Noodles そうめん • Just One Cookbook

Craving a light and refreshing chilled noodle dish on a hot summer day? Try my Cold Somen Noodles served with grated ginger, scallion, and a savory soy-based dipping sauce called tsuyu. Optionally, you can add various vegetables and proteins to this cooling dish to make it a more filling meal. {Vegan Adaptable}

A table setting for cold somen noodles.

What do you usually end up eating when the weather gets impossibly warm and you start losing your appetite? Growing up in Asia, summers were often brutally hot. To beat the heat, my favorite go-to dishes on these sweltering days are Japanese Cold Somen Noodles (そうめん) and Soba Noodles. As you slurp the slippery cold noodles dipped in delicious tsuyu, you’d feel your body starting to cool in the summer heat.

What Are Somen Noodles?

Sōmen (素麺,そうめん) are white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour and they are very thin, about 1 mm in diameter. Vegetable oil helps the dough stretch into threadlike strips. Then, the noodles are air-dried. You can read more about the somen-making process here.

Also, learn more about somen noodles on my pantry page.

Why You Should Try Somen Noodles

  • Very versatile. Goes well with any broth, sauce, or toppings!
  • Cooks super fast! It takes only 1 to 1½ minutes.
  • Easily accessible. You can purchase a package of dried somen noodles online and in most Asian grocery stores.
A table setting for cold somen noodles.A table setting for cold somen noodles.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Dried somen noodles — one of few types of Japanese noodles that are sold only in dried form.
  • Mentsuyu (noodle soup base) — store-bought or homemade
  • Chopped scallions — for garnish
  • Grated ginger — for garnish
  • Optional toppings — please read below.

Where to Buy Dried Somen Noodles

Fortunately, dried somen noodle packages are available at Japanese and Asian grocery stores. My favorite brand is Ibonoito (揖保乃糸). I grew up eating this brand, and it’s still the best in flavor and texture. Therefore, I’m so happy we can now purchase this brand in the US!

The pink somen noodles are made of Ume (梅), Japanese plum. The Tenobe Somen (手延そうめん) from Shodo Island has made the region famous as one of Japan’s top three producers of somen noodles.

A glass bowl containing cold somen noodles with dipping sauce.A glass bowl containing cold somen noodles with dipping sauce.

How to Cook Cold Somen Noodles

  1. Cook the somen noodles: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You do not need to salt the water. Also, it’s important to use plenty of water so the water stays boiling when you add the dried noodles. Cook the noodles for 1 to 1½ minutes, according to the package instructions. I usually undercook slightly. Stir the noodles with chopsticks to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles in a colander immediately. Using your hands, gently knead the noodles while rinsing them under cold running water. This helps to remove the excess oil used to make super thin noodles.
  2. Make tsuyu, the dipping sauce: Combine the mentsuyu, water, and ice cubes.
  3. Serve with the dipping sauce, garnishes, and optional toppings.
A glass bowl containing cold somen noodles with dipping sauce.A glass bowl containing cold somen noodles with dipping sauce.

How to Prepare the Dipping Sauce (Tsuyu)

Cold somen noodles are served with a dipping sauce called tsuyu (つゆ). It is the same Japanese dashi-based broth used in hot soup, but more concentrated in flavor. It’s super handy to make a big batch of easy homemade tsuyu as we use it often in the summertime!

I always keep a bottle of mentsuyu in my fridge. You can purchase it from a Japanese or Asian grocery store or on Amazon. Each mentsuyu brand has different instructions on how to use concentrated or non-concentrated sauce. We call the non-concentrated noodle soup base “straight” (ストレート); you do not need to dilute it with water. Follow the instructions on the back of the bottle and adjust as needed.

Mentsuyu / Tsuyu (Japanese Noodle Soup Base) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.comMentsuyu / Tsuyu (Japanese Noodle Soup Base) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Since it’s written in Japanese, I explained more on this Mentsuyu Pantry Page. If you’re unsure, try diluting the concentrate with water and taste it.

Must-Have Garnishes

I love keeping things simple by adding some chopped scallions and grated ginger to the tsuyu dipping sauce to serve with the cold somen.

A tray containing multiple small bowls containing garnishes for the somen noodles.A tray containing multiple small bowls containing garnishes for the somen noodles.

You can also add julienned shiso (perilla leaves) or myoga (Japanese ginger) if you can find them at Japanese grocery stores. The dipping sauce is light yet incredibly aromatic.

Optional Somen Toppings

To make the meal more filling, you can serve the somen noodles with various toppings. Here are some fun ideas:

A bamboo tray containing various somen noodle toppings.A bamboo tray containing various somen noodle toppings.

Proteins

Veggies and Mushrooms

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Julienned cucumber
  • Blanched and sliced okra
  • Simmered shiitake mushrooms

Garnishes

How to Serve Somen Noodles

After rinsing the noodles under cold running water, you can serve the noodles three ways.

  1. Option 1: Serve the noodles in iced water. (picture on the left)
  2. Option 2: Serve the rolled-up noodles on a plate or bamboo tray. (picture on the right)
  3. Option 3: Serve the drained noodles with ice cubes in individual plates/bowls. You can also roll up the noodles. (picture on the bottom)
A blue glass bowl containing somen noodles.A blue glass bowl containing somen noodles.
Option 3

Option #1 is a great choice on a hot day. Noodles are super cold and nice. If you are serving this dish for the family, pick option #1 or option #3. If you are serving this meal for a larger crowd (think of it as a DIY somen party!), option #2 might be a good choice, so you can pick up a portion of noodles easily.

Nothing is more comforting and satisfying than enjoying the long strands of chilled slippery somen noodles with the sweet-savory sauce on its own. It is one of the simple dishes that highlight the uniqueness of somen noodles.

A table setting for cold somen noodles.A table setting for cold somen noodles.

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A table setting for cold somen noodles.A table setting for cold somen noodles.

Japanese Cold Somen Noodles

Craving a light and refreshing chilled noodle dish on a hot summer day? Try my Cold Somen Noodles served with grated ginger, scallion, and a savory soy-based dipping sauce called tsuyu. Optionally, you can add various vegetables and proteins to this cooling dish to make it a more filling meal. {Vegan Adaptable}

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients 

 

For the Simmered Shiitake Topping (optional)

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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Instructions 

To Make the Dipping Sauce

  • I recommend making Homemade Mentsuyu for the best flavor, but you can also use store-bought mentsuyu. Most are concentrated, and every brand has slightly different instructions on how to dilute it. I explain a bit more on my mentsuyu pantry page. The brand I use recommends a dilution ratio of one part mentsuyu to three parts water, or 1 to 3.
  • Combine ¼ cup mentsuyu (concentrated noodle soup base) and ½–1 cup iced water in a measuring cup and mix well. If your mentsuyu is not concentrated (labeled “straight“ on the bottle), then you don‘t need to dilute it. Tip: Include several ice cubes as part of your measured water to keep your dipping sauce chilled and refreshing.

To Prepare the Garnishes

  • Cut 1 green onion/scallion into thin slices and grate the ginger (I use a ceramic grater) and put them separately in small bowls. I highly recommend shiso leaves (perilla/ooba) and myoga ginger for somen, if you can find them. Thinly slice and place them in separate small bowls. Grate a small amount of daikon radish (optional), gently squeeze some of the liquid out, then place in a small bowl. Pour some toasted white sesame seeds (optional) into a small bowl. Gather all the garnishes on a tray, if desired, and set aside.

To Prepare the Toppings (optional)

  • To make the meal more filling, you can prepare toppings such as chicken chashu, simmered shiitake mushrooms (see next step), blanched okra, toasted aburaage, shredded thin omelette (see How to Make Kinshi Tamago), julienned cucumbers, thinly sliced Satsuma age, and cherry tomatoes. Find more ideas in the blog post.
  • To make the simmered shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems from 8–10 shiitake mushrooms. Cut the caps into thin slices. In a saucepan, combine the mushroom slices, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp mirin, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 tbsp water (or dashi). Simmer, uncovered, until there is almost no liquid left. Set aside to cool.

To Cook the Somen Noodles

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You do not need to add salt to the water.) Meanwhile, remove all the wrappings from 4 bundles dried somen noodles, as all the noodles should go into the boiling water at the same time. Tip: Somen noodles cook very fast, so it‘s important to work quickly.

  • When the water is boiling, add the somen all at once, spreading the noodles around the pot in a circular motion to separate each strand (I use a motion similar to opening a Japanese folding fan).

  • Cook in the boiling water, stirring occasionally with chopsticks, for 1 to 1½ minutes or according to the package instructions. If it looks like the water may boil over, add a small amount of cold water to the pot. When the noodles are done, drain them in a colander. Tip: I slightly undercook my noodles to keep their springy texture.

  • Next, rinse the somen under cold running water. Once the noodles are cool enough to handle, rinse them with your hands as if you are washing your clothes. Knead and massage the noodles to get rid of the excess oil. When you finish, transfer the somen to a large bowl of iced water with several ice cubes.

To Serve

  • Cold Somen Noodles are often served family style in Japan, either chilled in iced water or on a tray. To serve in iced water, keep the chilled noodles in their large bowl of water with plenty of ice cubes. Decorate with green leaves such as the Japanese maple I used here. Serve the tsuyu dipping sauce in small individual bowls or cups.

  • Alternatively, you can serve the somen on individual plates or a large serving platter. With chopsticks, neatly roll the chilled noodles into small bunches and arrange on your plates/platter (I used a Japanese bamboo serving basket). Place the bowl or tray of somen in the center of the table along with the garnishes and optional toppings you prepared earlier. To eat, sprinkle a few garnishes and toppings into your tsuyu, dip some somen in your sauce, and enjoy.

To Store

  • You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If the noodles stick to each other under refrigeration, run them under cold water to loosen them up before serving. Ideally, you should boil the noodles right before serving so they won’t lose their perfectly springy texture.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Japanese Cold Somen Noodles

Amount per Serving

% Daily Value*

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Author: Namiko Chen

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Japanese

Keyword: cold noodle, somen

©JustOneCookbook.com Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any website or social media is strictly prohibited. Please view my photo use policy here.

Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on August 14, 2013. It was updated with new images, content, and a revised recipe on September 5, 2022, and republished on July 2, 2024.

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