When the weather gets hot, I crave somen for lunch. Somen are very thin Japanese wheat flour noodles served ice cold with a bit of somen base, a salty sort of broth.
When I was growing up, we had Japanese college students stay with us for a few years. They introduced us to all sorts of things we had never experienced before. We learned to mix sticky rice with vinegar and sugar, then roll our own sushi. We splattered and streaked thin rice paper with inky calligraphy. We tried desserts made from rice flour and bean paste. We knelt on the living room floor and learned to whisk green tea powder and perform a traditional tea ceremony. We folded stacks of origami paper into cranes and ate endless boxes of Japanese candy. The students were generous in sharing their language and culture with us. Somen was one of those new discoveries. Cold noodles! So exotic!
Nowadays, somen doesn’t seem exotic at all. It has become a familiar comfort food. After all, I have eaten since childhood—it is as much part of summer as popsicles and fresh tomatoes. Whenever the weather heats up, I boil the noodles for three minutes, rinse under cold water, and top with a few glugs of somen base. A quick stir with the chopsticks and I’ve got a simple, refreshing lunch.