Somen + salad = tasty

After a week filled with gunmetal skies, blustery winds and neverending drizzle, the sun decided to pop up and give us a couple of Indian summer days in Seattle. Inspired by the warm(er) weather–it hit 68F in the shade!–I decided to make a refreshing, cold somen salad. Somen is a skinny Japanese noodle, kinda like vermicelli but made from wheat flour instead of rice flour. They’re usually prettily packaged in neat bundles like so.

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My friend Scott Kushino’s mom, Daisy gave me this recipe. Originally from Hawaii, Daisy grew up on her mom and grandmothers’ healthy culinary creations made from the fresh vegetables homegrown on the island. When she moved to Chicago at 18, somen salad was one of many childhood recipes she took with her to the Mainland.

Though somen salad is Japanese in origin, when I told my Tokyo- born and bred (for the most part) friend Yuki about it she was a little bemused. “It sounds really good though,” she said. “I bet you can try it with soba (buckwheat noodles) too!” Hence I believe this dish is very much a Japanese/Hawaiian/American concoction.

By the way, if you’d like to learn a little more about Asian noodles, check out my article “Oodles of Noodles” that was printed in Priority magazine, the inflight magazine for Singapore Airlines (for those who know the commercial, please sing along: “Singapore Girl, you’re a great way to fly …”)

Somen Salad

Daisy’s recipe calls for kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) but you can use surimi (imitation crab meat; both kamaboko and surimi are made from the same basic ingredients, i.e. white fish) instead. Char siu aka barbecue pork is available at most Asian grocery supermarkets with a deli and what decent Hong Kong/Cantonese restaurant doesn’t have char siu on its menu? Like any salad, feel free to substitute or change portions to taste. The dressing goes fabulously with field greens too.

Time: 40 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

1 (12 oz) pkg. somen

1/2 head of small lettuce, shredded (about 2 cups)

1/2 lb char siu or ham, cut into matchsticks

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 pkg (6 oz) kamaboko or 6 sticks surimi, cut into matchsticks

2 stalks green onion, sliced into thin ‘O’s

Cook somen as directed on package. Do not overcook or the noodles will be soggy! Strain into colander, rinse with cold water, drain and set aside to cool.

Make omelets. Lightly grease a 6″ frying pan. Pour 1/2 of egg mixture into pan and roll it around to spread evenly, over low heat. When the omelet surface is nearly dry (lift edge to check if underside is cooked), flip. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining egg mixture. When cool, roll omelets into fat cigars and cut into very fine strips.

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Transfer somen to a large platter and arrange lettuce, meat, kamaboko or surimi, green onions and egg strips an top. Just before serving, pour dressing (recipe to follow) over salad. Mix well and serve on individual plates.

Dressing:

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1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons rice or white vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
l teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a screw-top lid. Screw top on. Shake well.