Japanese Angel-Hair Pasta
Somen is the aristocrat of Japanese noodles. Light and whisper thin, it was originally made "te-nobe," which means "stretched by hand," and was created with such lightning speed that watching the making was almost as enjoyable as the eating. This superb somen adds a delicate touch to tradition. Their use of fresh ground flour makes the Sakurai family one of Japan's premier pasta makers. Somen is traditionally served chilled, yet it can be enjoyed hot as well. It makes refreshing summer salads, wonderful nori-maki rolls (used instead of rice) and forms a lovely, lace-like tempura when fried.
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Cooking with Somen
During the heat of summer, noodles are deliciously refreshing when served floating in a bowl of ice water and accompanied by a chilled dipping sauce. For warmth in the winter, noodles are commonly served in piping hot broth. Whether in soups or salads, sautéed with vegetables, deep-fried, baked, or topped with sauce, noodles are delicious.
Quick to prepare, they provide the perfect solution when you have unexpected guests. In the time it takes for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, you can prepare a broth or sauce and a vegetable dish and voilà! In twenty minutes you can create a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Since most Japanese noodles are made with salt, it is not necessary or advisable to add salt to the cooking water. In a large pot, bring the water (about ten cups of water for every eight ounces of noodles) to a full rolling boil. Add the noodles a few at a time so as not to completely stop the boiling. Stir gently until the water is boiling rapidly again to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If too many noodles are added at once, the water will not quickly return to a boil and the noodles will be overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside. Also, using too little water will result in sticky, unevenly cooked noodles.
There are two acceptable methods for cooking noodles. The first method is quite basic. Simply bring the water in the pot back to a rapid boil once all the noodles have been added (as just described), then cook the noodles over medium heat until done. The second method is known as the "shock method". Once the noodles have been added to the pot and the water returns to a rolling boil, a cup of cold water is added to "shock" the noodles. When the water returns to a boil again, another cup of cold water is added. This is repeated three or four times until the noodles are cooked. No matter which method is used, noodles should be tested often to avoid overcooking. A properly cooked noodle should be slightly chewy. When broken in half, the noodle should be the same color throughout.
Once cooked, immediately drain and rinse the noodles in two or three cold-water baths or under cold running water to prevent further cooking and to keep the noodles from sticking together. When they have cooled enough to handle, drain and set aside until ready to assemble your dish. If reheating is necessary, place individual noodles in a strainer or colander and submerge in a pot of boiling water until just heated. Drain well and serve.
The noodle cooking water can be reserved, allowed to sour slightly, and then used as a natural leavening agent in breads, muffins, and pancakes.
Somen on Ice
This cooling dish is most appealing on the hottest summer days.
2 cups spring water
6-inch piece Mitoku Hidaka Kombu
2 tablespoons Mitoku Kanazawa Shoyu
2 tablespoons Mitoku Mikawa Mirin
1/2 teaspoon Masu 100% Sea Water Salt
1 package (7 oz) Mitoku Somen
3 tablespoons slivered scallion
1 teaspoon wasabi paste or grated fresh ginger
Bring the water and kombu to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Gently simmer the kombu for 3-5 minutes, then remove it. (You may want to reserve it for another use, such as when cooking beans.) Add shoyu, mirin, and salt and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
Meanwhile, prepare somen according to the directions on the package. After rinsing the cooked noodles in cold water and draining them, place somen into small serving bowls (for this dish, glass bowls are lovely). Gently pour into each bowl about 1 cup cold water and, if desired, arrange a few ice cubes around the noodles. Garnish with a single parsley or watercress spring, a fresh strawberry, or anything simple, cooling, and colorful.
Serve 1/2 cup chilled dipping broth in small individual bowls, adding 1/2 tablespoon scallion and 1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste or grated ginger to each. Dip each bite of noodles into the broth. When dipping broth becomes weak, replace with fresh broth.
Noodles With Miso-Tahini Sauce
Udon and whole wheat somen go especially well with this popular sauce, but soba can be substituted with good results. This recipe is one of our family favorites and a great choice when you need a quick and easy meal for unexpected guests. The recipe below is simply garnished with scallion. For a heartier version, top the noodles and sauce with a colorful assortment of steamed vegetables.
7 oz. package Mitoku Brown Rice Udon
4 level tablespoons Mitoku Sweet White Miso
3-4 tablespoons tahini
1/3 cup spring water
2 tablespoons Mitoku Kyushu Brown Rice Vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon Mitoku Mikawa Mirin
1 1/2-2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Pinch dried basil, tarragon or thyme (optional)
Minced scallion for garnish
Cook noodles according to the directions on the package, then rinse under cold running water, drain, and set aside.
Combine miso and tahini in a saucepan. Add water, a little at a time, and mix well to form a smooth sauce. Add remaining ingredients and bring just to a simmer. If too thick, add a little more water; if too thin, simmer briefly to thicken.
To serve, place noodles in individual serving bowls, spoon sauce over top, and garnish with scallion.
Festive Noodle Salad
1 package Mitoku Bifun Noodles
1 carrot, cut in matchsticks
about 20 snow peas
several broccoli florets
1 bunch watercress
2 tablespoons Mitoku Sweet White Miso
2 tablespoons tahini
juice of 1-1 1/2 oranges (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon chopped scallion
Cook noodles according to the direction on the package, then rinse under cold running water, drain, and set aside. Remove large stems from watercress and remove tips and strings from snow peas. Parboil vegetables individually in lightly salted water, then remove, cool under running water, drain, and set aside. (Cook lighter flavored vegetables first. For example, boil carrots for 1 minute, then snow peas for 30 seconds, broccoli for 3 minutes, and finally, watercress for 20-30 seconds.) Chop noodles into 1 1/2 - 2-inch lengths and place in a bowl. Chop watercress and add to noodles along with carrots.
For dressing, combine miso, tahini, orange juice, and lemon juice in a blender or suribachi. Just before serving, mix dressing with noodles, carrots, and watercress and place on a platter in a mound. Arrange snow peas around the edge of the mixture. Place a few broccoli florets on the center of the mound and the rest around the edge.