If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ve likely had that feeling of “man, I wish I could go back right now!” And when that feeling kicks in, you might end up cooking Japanese food, taking up origami, or even learning the language.
In our case, even though our editorial team lives in Japan, during the outbreak of coronavirus we can’t go out anywhere! So somehow we ended up making Nagashi Somen, the famous bamboo noodles. So now you can bring this Japanese quirk into your own home!
- Table of Contents
- What is Nagashi Somen?
- First, prepare your noodles and soup!
- Use old plastic bottles! How to set it up
- Let’s get started!
- First, cut off the top and bottom of the plastic bottle
- Cut the PET bottle in half vertically
- Stick cellophane tape on the vertical cut
- Put plastic bottles on top of each other, attach the tape, and connect them
- Complete by attaching a wooden board
- Install it on a high table and start eating somen!
What is Nagashi Somen?
"Nagashi Somen" means “flowing cold noodles.” (But that doesn’t sound great so let’s stick to the exotic-sounding Japanese name!)
It’s a dish found in various areas throughout Japan, made by splitting a bamboo in half lengthwise and having water flow through it. Then, noodles are dropped into the bamboo slide, and you scoop up a noodle nest with your chopsticks and eat it! It’s a very popular summer dish in Japan.
‘Kawadoko’ in Kyoto is famous for this dish, and they have an awesome restaurant that floats above a river – very Instagrammable! So how do you bring that into your own home?
First, prepare your noodles and soup!
Even if you don't have somen noodles or dashi soup, you can substitute them for something nearby! No-one is going to know or care, as long as you’re having fun. You could even try it with a cold tomato sauce, and use pasta like capellini, and just put a completely western spin on it. Or you could go for dried soba noodles, ramen noodles... or whatever you can get your hands on!
Use old plastic bottles! How to set it up
OK, so, how many of us have bamboo lying around? No-one? You’re telling me you don’t have a bamboo grove in your backyard?! Well, we’ll just have to make do with plastic bottles then!
We recommend 2-litre plastic bottles. For best results, we used a cutter, scissors, sellotape (one thick and one thin), and some wooden boards and sticks to match the table length. We lined the bottles up to make a slide that was about one meter long.
Let’s get started!
For this challenge we asked for help from Megumi Ishida, the event planner for Banfukuji in Horie, Osaka. At Banfukuji Temple, a Nagashi Somen event is held every July for the Tanabata Festival. There is even a temple cafe called "Tea garden" in the corner of Banfukuji Temple, and it seems that the menu centering around tea is well received by tourists.
According to Mr. Ishida, "I’d recommend hard plastic bottles rather than the types that bend easily. And those with grooves or irregularities on the sides might slow down the pace of the noodles or even get them stuck.”
First, cut off the top and bottom of the plastic bottle
First, cut off the top and bottom of the prepared plastic bottle. The trick is to first make a cut with a cutter tool and then insert scissors from that cut.
"Be careful not to cut your hands. If you are making it with a small child, parents should do this part for them!"
Cut the PET bottle in half vertically
Cut the top and bottom of the plastic bottle into half halves with a cutter or scissors. Since it will be cut in two places, you can cut it cleanly in half if you draw a line beforehand with a marker. Parents should do this work as well.
Stick cellophane tape on the vertical cut
Apply a thin piece of cellophane tape to the cut. This is because the edges will be sharp, so it will prevent cuts and scratches.
Make sure to stick the tape down firmly so the noodles don’t get caught.
Put plastic bottles on top of each other, attach the tape, and connect them
After covering the cut with cellophane tape, stack the plastic bottles and connect them together. When putting together, connect them in the direction that the somen noodles fall, so that somen flows without catching. Overlap by about 2 cm, and firmly fix it down with your thick cellophane tape.
Complete by attaching a wooden board
Finally, firmly affix your plastic bottle slide to your wooden board with tape (or wood glue), and it’s done! If you’re using tape, it’s probably best to use a few layers to strengthen it.
“We added the wood to stop the plastic bottles from bending at the weight of the water and noodles, but it doesn’t need to be wood! Anything you have lying around that will hold that weight will do.”
Install it on a high table and start eating somen!
Now find a good space (perhaps outside to avoid too much mess), and set it up. Get some furniture with varying heights, and place the noodle slide in a diagonal fashion (using tape if necessary). Then place a bucket with a colander on top at the end to catch the noodles.
Then finally pour your water down your makeshift nagashi somen apparatus, and start putting your noodles in batches from the top! You could play a game to see how quickly your partner can grab the bamboo noodles, or challenge yourself to make an even longer noodle slide.
Have a bowl with your prepared soup stock ready, and once you've caught the bamboo noodles, put them into your bowl and enjoy!
“It’s a good idea to use a stool or something in the middle to stop the bottles from bending. For hygiene reasons, if you want to use a hose, I would recommend buying a new one for this purpose.”
We hope you have fun making your own nagashi somen at home!
Text by: Efeel Co., Ltd. Translation by: Cassandra Lord
*The above article is based on information from June 2020
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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