RECIPE: Somen With Pan-fried Eggplant
– cold somen noodles with fried eggplant topping
Serves 4 | Preparation time 30 minutes (plus 2 hours to chill the dashi tsuyu)
Cooking time 10 minutes
Recipe and Article by Kanako Koizumi
Summer in Seattle is just delightful with its perfectly comfortable temperature and friendly sunshine. And if you have ever spent summertime in Japan, you’d probably appreciate the season even more.
Japan’s summer is known to be very hot and humid (Note: Hokkaido was an exception, but I hear it’s no longer the case in recent years). A lot of people experience “Natsu Bate”, a series of symptoms such as loss of appetite, fatigue and lack of sleep due to the unbearable heat and humidity. It’s particularly hard when your appetite is affected, so people tend to eat lots of cold foods.
There are some cold foods that bring back summer memories to Japanese people. To me, Hiyashi Chuka (cold ramen salad), Kakigouri (shaved ice), Suika (watermelon) and somen noodles (thin noodles made with wheat flour and oil). I remember vividly a family style lunch at home on a hot summer afternoon – a large bowl of somen noodles with lot of ice cubes in it. We would dig in and slurp the noodles dipped in a chilled dashi tsuyu (soy sauce seasoned dashi).
Cold somen is a perfect quick meal for summer. You can optionally add toppings and condiments. Once you make the dipping broth and have it chilled in the fridge in advance, the rest is super easy. This recipe is “Bukkake” style, where dashi tsuyu is poured over the noodles instead of serving with individual dipping broth in a cup.
- 2 cups Bonito dashi
How to Make dashi: Put kombu and 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat. Once kombu is hydrated and water starts to boil, add bonito flakes and reduce heat to medium. Cook for a minute and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and strain. Discard the kombu and bonito flakes.
- 2 Tbsp. Soy sauce
- ¼ cup Mirin
- ¼ cup Sake
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 4 bunch dried somen noodles
- 1 Fresh Asian eggplant
- Optional condiments – chopped green onion, grated fresh ginger, nori flakes, blanched okra, julienned cucumber, and shredded shiso leaves. Be creative and add your own!
Make Dashi Tsuyu
① Heat dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sake and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
② Cook for another minute to cook off alcohol in mirin and sake.
③ Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
④ Transfer to a container with lid and refrigerate for a few hours until chilled.
① Cut a fresh eggplant (Asian kind preferred) lengthwise, cut each into 2-inch-long, then fry both sides of the eggplant pieces in a skillet with 1 Tbsp. neutral flavored oil.
② Cool to room temperature.
① Boil plenty of water (2 quarts or more) in a deep pot. Put in dried somen noodles and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the instructions provided on the somen package.
② Strain into a meshed colander and give a brief rinse under running water.
③ Transfer the cooked noodles to an individual or family sized bowl. You can place ice cubes on the noodles, if you like (Please note that melted ice could thin the flavor of the dashi tsuyu)
Pour chilled dashi tsuyu over the noodles, garnish with topping options such as the nasu agebidashi or plain fried eggplant, and other condiments. Serve cold.