Sounds like an oxymoronic dish but iced summer somen is the best way to describe this Japanese noodle dish. Somen are the noodles most eaten in the summer in China and Japan, maybe because they are lighter and less filling than udon and other noodles. I find it strange that here in tropical Malaysia we slurp noodles in hot boiling soup. Maybe it's because most Chinese in Malaysia are from southern China where the summers aren't as hot as those in the middle and northern parts of China. In those parts of China, the heat can go up to 40 C in summer, the walls weep with humidity and people actually sleep out in the public.
Somen are thin wheat noodles and I've found Korean somen to be as good as (smooth, slight el dente, no stale flavor) and half the price of Japanese somen. They are sold dried so it's a good idea to keep some around for emergencies. The best thing is, somen take less than 5 minutes to cook.
The first time I ate iced somen was in, of all places, Knoxville, Tennessee one summer decades ago. Donna's mom was Japanese, Dad was Caucasian. Donna had invited me for lunch and I arrived at her apartment to see (my heart fell, I remember that) a large bowl of white noodles, tomatoes, prawns and ice. I thought that it must be the Tennessean heat that got Donna or maybe her mom had lived away from Japan for too long. Turned out that the Japanese really do eat somen with ice cubes.
If you are having blistering hot weather, this is the perfect lunch to serve. Boil the noodles early and keep them in a large bowl of cold water in the fridge. Make the dip ahead too. If you want prawns, prepare those too but it's okay to just have somen with some tomatoes and cucumbers. If serving somen plain, it's a good idea to make some teriyaki chicken or pork schnitzel to go with it, especially if your family and friends aren't into the vegetarian thing. It can be quite a shock for the uninitiated to eat cold noodles with cucumbers and tomatoes. Hey if my Hub said the iced somen were good, they must be because the guy's a meat eater. Even if you doubt him, take it from me: iced somen is yummy.
The Japanese way is to dip the somen into the sauce. Slurping is encouraged.
My way is to put everything into the sauce; so much easier. Slurping is optional.
Iced Summer Somen (serves 3 to 4)
250 gm dried somen
1 cucumber, sliced
1-2 tomatoes, in wedges (or cherry tomatoes)
about 12 to 15 medium-sized prawns
wasabi paste or grated fresh ginger
thinly sliced spring onions
Garnish: cherries, lemon slices
1. Remove the dirt vein from the prawns using a metal skewer. Boil a small pot of water and add the prawns. Switch off the heat and leave the prawns covered. The prawns'll be more tender this way. When cool, remove the shells leaving the tails.
2. Boil a large pot of water. Add the somen, stir and cover. When the water boils again, add 1 cup of room temp water and cover. When it boils the second time, check the noodles (nip one in half to see if it has cooked through, or eat it) and if the texture is to your liking, drain the water. Rinse the somen with cold water and then let it soak in a large glass bowl of cold water.
3. Whisk the eggs with some salt and white pepper. Fry into a thin pancake and cut into thin strips.
4. Make the sauce:
1 T dashi granules
2 cups (2 1/2 to 3 cups if you don't want it too salty) water
1/2 cup light soy sauce (Kikkoman)
1/2 cup mirin
--Heat 1 cup of the water and dissolve the dashi granules in it. Add the soy sauce and mirin, switch off the heat and add the remaining water. Let cool and chill in the fridge. When ready to serve, top the somen with the prawns, cucumber slices, tomatoes and the garnishing and lots of ice cubes.
5. Each person is served a bowl of somen and a bowl of the sauce. Customize your bowl of sauce with the wasabi/ginger, spring onions etc. With a pair of chopsticks, dip some somen into the sauce and eat.
Lookie, a plate from Kappabashi with a fugu on it.