Hot summer, cool noodles

Conquer the rising mercury with somen

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Hot summer, cool noodles

The heat of summer doesn’t do much for the appetite, but it does make us reach for cold food. One iconic cold Japanese summer dish that’s perfect for the unrelenting humidity of Japanese summer is somen noodles. Somen – finely milled noodles eaten cold –have a long history which has its roots in the introduction of a food called sakubei during the Nara Period. Somen is often eaten on celebratory occasions, and in some areas it is also known as a dish served at festival times like obon (The Festival of the Dead) and tanabata (Star Festival). It’s not only the cool, refreshing flavour of somen, but also its long history that has made it a summer favourite. Time Out Tokyo helps you survive the Japanese summer with five great restaurants in which to slurp some cool, tasty somen.

Awaya Iccho (Higashi-Nakano)

Su-somen, cold ¥600

Leave Higashi-Nakano Station, and nearby you’ll find this small shop which has just counter and loft seating. The menu is based around food from Tokushima, such as Tokushima specialty takechikuwa (a tube-shaped fish cake baked around a bamboo stick) and the popular cheap-eat fish-katsu (a deep-fried breaded fish cutlet). The main item on the menu here, however, is Tokushima’s local somen, handa somen. Handa somen is made with a thicker noodle, which have a satisfyingly firm bite, and are rather filling. There is also a large range of other noodle dishes on the menu, including deka-kitsune onmen, abura somen and inaka bukkake. (Full details & map)

Kisetsu Ryori Funayado (Shibasaki)

Somen Set (incl tempura) ¥1,200

If you exit Shibasaki station and follow the train line Towards Kokuryo, you’ll see the golf driving range this restaurant calls home. There are many other places to eat on the grounds, but Kisetsu Ryori Funayado is in a house which was used by an old, established family, built in the gassho-zukuri style. During summer it serves nagashi-somen, where the noodles are sent down a sort of bamboo water slide to be plucked out with chopsticks. It’s easy to relax in the retro interior of the restaurant. For those of you who don’t like the heat, though, take care because there is no air conditioning – only electric fans. Be sure to make a reservation before you go. (Full details & map)

Ibonoito Iori, BelleVie Akasaka Store (Akasaka)

Cold somen ¥700

This restaurant is on the seventh floor of the BelleVie Akasaka shopping centre, which was completely refurbished in 2000. This is an ‘antenna shop’ run by one of the best known somen brands, Ibonoito. A great selection of food is on offer, from original creations like the somen harumaki (spring rolls), to more the orthodox hot or cold somen, and even set courses which centre on somen. (Full details & map)

Irorian Hanamizuki (Nagatoro)

Nagashi somen, all you can eat ¥1,000

This restaurant is within the grounds of the ryokan Choseikan, in Nagatoro, Saitama. Nagatoro is halfway up the Arakawa River, around two hours by train from Shinjuku. Udon is the restaurant’s speciality, but from spring to autumn, in a summerhouse within the gardens, it’s possible to try nagashi-somen. Even in summer, it’s beautifully cool within the shade of the trees in the lush setting. The surrounding landscape is impressive: the lively Arakawa River flows close by, home to activities like rafting and boating. (Full details & map)

Azeya (Kamakura)

This shop, located in front of the West Exit of Kamakura station, serves Handa somen, made from noodles so thick that they are almost doppelgangers for udon. You can choose noodles served cold, or in hot water in the kama-age style; season them with sesame, spring onions and ginger. They also offer kamonegi-tsukemen, where noodles are served with a duck and spring onion soup to dip them in. With a wide variety of drinks and dishes on offer, somen is a great way to finish off a meal at Azeya. (Full details & map)

Text and photos by Takeshi Tojo
Translated by Virginia Okno
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.

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