Japanese Summer Treat: Sōmen Noodle with Snap Peas and Radish
I have been waiting desperately for the nice and sunny summer weather this year for some reason. We have had a few sunny days and the temperature actually hit over 60 degrees(!) last week here in Seattle. It was sunny but cool yesterday, and that was good enough for me to celebrate the almost summery weather by going out to the farmer's market in the morning. To make it even more of a welcoming almost summer weather, I decided to make my all time favorite Japanese summer food - cold sōmen - with fresh snap peas and radish from the market.
I used to help my grandma with food preparation all the time before I was even in grade school. I often think about all kinds of cool things I did with her, now that I have this blog. They were such simple things for preparing food but also very valuable. Taking peas out of pods was one of the cool things I did with her.
Somen is such a delicate noodle because it's so thin like silk and served with light soy sauce based soup. It can be eaten cold or hot, but it's usually prepared cold in the summer in Japan when it's hot and muggy. It's so hot all you feel like swallowing is cold thin noodles on ice. And don't forget all kinds of yakumi. Yakumi is basically an assorted bunch of flavorful toppings like wasabi, sesame seeds, chopped scallions, shredded nori, graded ginger, bonito flakes, etc. Yes, bonito flakes (that's the flaky stuff on the image below)! I can't believe this is the first time I'm talking about it here. Bonito (aka katsuo) as the name of this blog comes from is a type of mackerel and tastes like tuna. My hometown is known for bonito fishing and dried bonito which is an important element for making broth in Japanese cuisine, etc... Phew, now you know where the name came from.
My kids love love looooove noodles, especially somen. They love udon and soba, but somen seems to hit the spot with them more. My daughter, CK wanted to eat it with chopsticks today. It was pretty much her first time trying and she did manage to get a few bites with them. I should really start teaching them how to use chopsticks already!
By the way, the beautiful Japanese plate was handed to me as a birthday gift from my inspirational friend, Satoko. It's made by a local pottery artist, Akiko Graham.
Recipe: 2-4 people
a handful of somen noodles
5 small//medium radishes
1 cup of peas
1 cup of bonito flakes
1 sheet of kelp
1 bag of dash power
2 dried shiitake (soak in a cup of water overnight)
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of light soy sauce (not low sodium, actually saltier but lightly colored)
2 tbsp of mirin or sugar
2 tbsp of cooking sake
a pinch of salt
* ok to use chicken or vegetable broth instead of dashi and bonito flakes
yakumi / topping (all optional)
a handful of bonito flakes (should be available at any Japanese or Korean market)
a handful of sesami seeds
a few nori/seaweed papers
a tsp of wasabi
For dashi soup, add water, bonito flakes, kelp, shiitake water. Bring it to boil and add soy sauce, miring, sake and salt. Simmer it with medium high heat for an hour or longer. Keep the stock in the refrigerator.
Boil 6 cups of water in a pan and cook somen noodles for about 2 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the noodles in cold running water until they don't feel starchy. Rest it in the water with ice.
Boil peas for about 30 seconds and rest them in ice water. Slice radishes thinly.
Julienne seaweed (nori) very thinly by using a pair of scissors.
Take noodles out of ice water and remove the water gently by hand and place them on a plate. Top it with peas, sliced radishes and assorted yakumi. Serve it with sauce poured over or sauce in a dipping cup.
Posted by Rika Manabe