Even with temperatures slowly dipping, September is still plenty hot and humid. Of all the various cold noodles enjoyed in Japan — such as soba, udon and hiyashi chūkasōmen is the quickest to make.

The most important thing with sōmen is to not overcook it, which is easy to do since the noodles are so thin, and to rinse them several times in fresh, cold water after cooking to remove any surface starch. Here are three easy recipes for the accompanying dipping sauce — just pick the one that suits your mood. I’ve also included a tasty way to use up any leftover noodles.


Vegan shojin mentsuyu

Serves 4-5; Cook: 20 mins., plus soaking and chilling


• 4 dried shiitake mushrooms

• 1 15-centimeter-long piece konbu seaweed

• 1 strip kanpyō (dried gourd)

• 1 liter water

• 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet, fermented cooking alcohol)

• 2 teaspoons sugar

• 80 milliliters dark soy sauce


1. Soak the mushrooms, konbu and kanpyō in the water overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Put the water and soaked ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Remove the konbu and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and kanpyō.

3. Add the mirin, sugar and soy sauce and stir until dissolved. Chill until served.


Classic mentsuyu

Serves 4-5; Cook: 10 mins., plus soaking and chilling


• 1 10-centimeter-long piece konbu seaweed

• 1 liter water

• 40 grams katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes)

• 2 teaspoons mirin

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 80 milliliters dark soy sauce


1. Soak the konbu in the water overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Bring the water and konbu to a boil. Just before the water is boiling, turn off the heat and add the katsuobushi. Leave until the katsuobushi has sunk to the bottom of the pan.

3. Strain and put the liquid back in the pan. Add the mirin, sugar and soy sauce, and heat until dissolved. Chill until served.


Chicken soup and umeboshi mentsuyu

Serves 4-5; Cook: 5 mins.


• 1 liter water

• 2 teaspoons chicken stock granules

• 2 teaspoons sugar

• 1 tablespoon soy sauce

• 3-4 umeboshi, pitted and chopped to a paste


1. Heat the water and dissolve the stock granules and sugar. Add the soy sauce and umeboshi paste. Chill until served.


Basic sōmen noodles

1-2 bundles of sōmen per person


1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn the heat down so that the water is bubbling, but not at a rolling boil.

2. Twist the bundle of noodles into the boiling water so they don’t clump, and let them sink down with minimal stirring. Boil for 90 seconds to two minutes, depending on the package instructions. When they are flowing freely in the water, they are done.

3. Drain the noodles, immediately return them to the pot and fill with cold water. Drain and fill with cold water again. Repeat several times while gently rubbing the noodles with your hands.

4. Arrange the noodles on a large serving plate or bowl lined with ice cubes. Eat them dipped in the sauce of your choice with garnishes such as chopped green onions, shredded green shiso leaves, sliced myōga ginger, grated wasabi and shichimi tōgarashi spice mix.


Leftover sōmen-sesame fritters

1. Mix any leftover chopped green onions with the noodles and a sprinkle of shichimi tōgarashi.

2. Heat some dark sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Take handfuls of noodles and put them in the pan in small bundles. Pan-fry until crispy, flip and pan-fry the other side. Drizzle with soy sauce.

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