When I was young, my family went on a lot of road trips. We would drive from Minnesota to Tennessee every year to visit my mother’s family and I remember, more often than not, driving through Western Wisconsin talking about the grilled cheese and tomato soup we would have for dinner as soon as we arrived home. This was the meal of choice partly because there were no groceries to speak of after 2 weeks of being away, but also because its a meal we all enjoyed.
After spending the weekend in Thailand I’ve been craving something simple and comforting. Since grilled cheese and tomato soup is not exactly common around here, I tend to want onigiri or Japanese noodles instead. This meal of simple somen noodles with warm dashi was the perfect meal after my “road trip” to Southeast Asia. Often times somen noodles are eaten with cold dipping sauces, perfect for hot summer days in Japan. I’ve decided to give them an autumnal spin instead by using the hot dashi broth. Sometimes, if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll add a dollop of miso butter to the broth to give it a bit more body and flavor.
With a couple umeboshi, this is the perfect light meal after traveling. Or just when you’re short on time and want a healthy, satisfying supper. Most of the time I’m too impatient to dip my somen noodles. Instead, I’ll just put the noodles right in the broth and skip the dipping.OK, I’m just a messy noodle-dipper-slurper. There, I admitted it.
Somen Noodles & Hot Dashi
For the dashi:
2 cups water
1 3-inch piece kombu
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/3 cup bonito flakes
1 T soy sauce OR 2-3 T miso butter
Put the water in a saucepan with the kombu and shiitakes. Allow the kombu and shiitake’s to soak in the water for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight (the longer you let the sit the more flavor you will get in the stock- I usually let everything soak for about an hour when I’m short on time).
Place the saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. After about 5 minutes remove the kombu and shiitakes. Remove the stock from the heat and gently add the bonito flakes. After about 3 minutes, strain the stock through a coffee strainer. Stir in 1 tablespoon miso paste (or miso butter) if desired or just the soy sauce. Reheat if needed before serving.
For the noodles:
2 bundles somen noodles (typically sold in small bundles at Asian grocery stores)
Cook according to package directions. Usually these delicate noodles take only 2-3 minutes. Strain and run under cold water. Serve alongside the dashi and garnish with chopped green onions or Chinese chives.