Here in the last throes of summer, lunch is sometimes no more than a mound of somen noodles served atop a bed of ice. Somen noodles are thin wheat noodles, as thin as vermicelli, more delicate than buckwheat. Twirled around chopsticks and dipped in a sauce made with soy sauce and dashi, the noodles slide down the throat. They are icy, firm, and rich.
You can find somen noodles at any Chinese, Korean, or Japanese grocery store (not to mention certain overpriced upscale western markets). Somen noodles cook in one to two minutes and can be kept chilled for up to an hour in a bowl of ice water, making preparation hassle-free.
Serve the noodles with whatever sides you have around: sautéed mushrooms, seaweed, or a dollop of natto or tofu for protein. You can serve the sides directly on the noodles and ice, or as accompaniments in separate plates.
The dipping sauce is made by simmering dashi (fish stock) soy sauce, and sugar with handfuls of bonito flakes (dried fish flakes). Thinly sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, a julienned nori make for quick garnishes, though if the noodles are cooked to al dente perfection and the dipping sauce is flavorful, little more is necessary for the perfect slurping experience.
About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.