No matter what culture you come from, chances are there are seasonal foods that we all look forward to. In the summer in Japan, Nagashi soumen is one such food.
Soumen is a type of Japanese noodle made from white flour. It is typically dipped in a soy sauce-based dipping sauce, and is served cold, making it a popular summer dish for it’s cool, refreshing taste. The noodles themselves are not sticky or greasy, and are actually quite slick. They don’t have much flavour alone, so the dipping sauce is essential. Garnishes like Japanese basil (シソ shiso), sliced leeks (ネギ negi), and myoga ginger (ミョウガ myouga) are also commonly eaten with soumen.
If you have never had soumen, you can find it at many restaurants or you could even try your hand at making it yourself! This is what it looks like dry:
流しそうめん (nagashi soumen) literally means “flowing soumen”. Sometimes cooked soumen noodles are put down a bamboo shoot flowing with cold water. People will stand along the shoot and try to catch noodles as they quickly flow past, then dip them in a small bowl of sauce. If a noodle is missed, however, fret not! Usually the person after you will catch it. In this way it almost becomes a kind of competition.
This style of eating soumen was started in 1955 in Miyazaki prefecture. Farmers started doing it during break times, and it became incredibly popular. Nagashi soumen is now done all over Japan during the summertime.
There are a number of ways you can make a slider for the water and noodles. If you are crafty, you can purchase and split bamboo logs, remove the knot between segments, and lay them slightly overlapping end to end, at a slightly downward angle.
You can also use cleaned plastic bottles and other kinds of plastic to rig up a slider.
If actually making a slider isn’t your thing, there are a number of tools you can buy that emulate the experience.
Whatever your method for nagashi soumen, it is definitely something you should try at least once. It’s an excellent way to pass the time, have a little excitement, and have a refreshing treat in the beastly Japanese summer.
Stay cool and have fun, everyone!
For info on sunscreens available in Japan: https://www.lifeabroad.jp/html/personal_care/sunscreen.html
For info on insect repellents available in Japan: https://www.lifeabroad.jp/html/daily_life/insect_repellent.html
For tips on how to stay cool in the summer: https://www.lifeabroad.jp/html/daily_life/heating_ac.html#cooling