Cold Somen With Homemade Tsuyu (Noodle Dipping Broth)

By Melissa Uchiyama
Melissa Uchiyama
Melissa Uchiyama
August 4, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

Serves 4

  • 8 bundles dried somen (2 bundles per person, depending on appetite)
  • Ice cubes
  • Tsuyu, for serving (store-bought or homemade, recipe follows)
  • Toppings: grated ginger, chopped scallions (or Japanese negi), sliced myoga (Japanese ginger), julienned cucumbers, citrus supremes, julienned shiso leaves, shredded egg omelette, sliced ham or fishcakes, etc.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (Do not salt the water.) Add the somen, stirring gently to separate the noodles so they don’t stick, and cook according to package instructions. Be careful not to overcook; the somen will become semi-transparent and ready in a matter of minutes.

Quickly remove from heat, drain in a colander, and rinse under cold running water. Use your hands to wash the noodles as you rinse, to separate the strands and help remove excess starch and oil.

Once cold, arrange the somen in small bundles on a large serving dish for easy grabbing, family-style. (Alternatively, you can distribute somen bundles among individual dishes.) Add ice cubes and a sprinkle of water so that the noodles don’t stick.

Pour the tsuyu into individual sauce dipping bowls. You can enjoy this homemade tsuyu straight, as the ice cubes situated around the somen will dilute it a bit, or add more cold water to the tsuyu for a milder flavor. If using store-bought tsuyu, look at the label to see if it’s meant to be used as is, or if it’s a concentrate that should be diluted. Follow instructions for optimal taste.

Arrange bowls of grated ginger and chopped chives or scallions for diners to add to their own dipping broths to customize the flavor. Toppings such as sliced cucumbers, citrus, or fishcakes can be added to the somen platter or in a separate dish.

Homemade Tsuyu

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups katsuobushi (bonito flakes), or sub with vegetable or fish bouillon
  • 4-inch piece kombu
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup cooking sake

Bring the water to a boil. Add the bonito flakes all at once and stir. Simmer gently for 3 minutes, skimming off any foam that accrues on the surface. Finely strain out the bonito flakes and set to low heat.

Add the kombu and keep watch. Once the liquid just begins to boil, immediately remove the kombu from the pot. (Once cool, store the kombu to reuse a second time.)

Still on low heat, stir in the sugar. (Per my Japanese mother-in-law, this addition is to replace the traditional mirin, as the quality and sweetness of mirin can greatly vary, especially outside of Japan.) Stir in the soy sauce and sake, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow the tsuyu to cool to room temperature. Never serve a summer somen with warm tsuyu! If making ahead, refrigerate until ready to use.

Melissa Uchiyama
Melissa Uchiyama