On a hot summer day nothing refreshes like cold, wet noodles. Japan eats a rice-based diet most of the year, but in the summertime, to lighten the hot-weather menu and relieve pressure on dwindling rice storage from the previous fall, the population turns to cold noodles.

The three representative noodles in Japan are somen, udon and soba. Somen, and its stepchild, the slightly thicker hiya mugi, are perhaps the most refreshing during the dog days of summer, as they are both served immersed in ice water. Somen makes for a cooling yet filling lunch scooped out one mouthful at a time and enjoyed with a chilled dipping sauce. To make it into a more complete meal, serve somen with one or two boiled shrimp or some grilled shiitake mushrooms. It is also often seen in restaurants paired with sushi or broiled eel over rice (unagi donburi).

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