TGS Lunch - Akiko's Summer Somen 2 ways

Posted by Emma Tsuchida on

Summer in Japan is not for the faint of heart.  Temperatures can soar to uncomfortable heights so cooking a cooling meal is a way to cope in the heat.  Enter the thin soft noodles we call 'somen' (sou-men), that are traditionally served chilled with a cold broth.

Tortoise member, Akiko, prepared a special staff lunch of somen noodles served in 2 delicious styles. 

Please enjoy her recipes below.

Somen topped with Pumpkin and Ground Pork with a White Sesame Dipping Sauce:

  • Minced pork – 1 pack
  • Pumpkin – quarter piece
  • Sugar – 1 tablespoon
  • Mirin – 1 tablespoon
  • Sake – 1 tablespoon
  • Shoyu – 1 tablespoon
  • Dashi – quarter cup
  • Salt – pinch
  • Somen – 4 bundles
  • Canola oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Green onion – slice in thin verticle strips



  1. Julienne the quarter piece of pumpkin into thin slivers
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of canola oil into a frying pan and place the pan on medium heat
  3. Once the oil starts to heat up, throw the minced pork into the pan, stir and separate while you cook. Cook the pork thoroughly – approximately 3 minutes
  4. Next throw in the pumpkin slivers, mix together well with the minced pork and cook – approximately 3 minutes
  5. Pour in the quarter cup of dashi. You can use any dashi, but we make our own with a quarter cup of water, a 3 inch strip of dried konbu and a teabag filled with katsuobushi shavings (please use katsuo that is intended for dashi making).  Let the konbu and bag of katsuobushi sit and cook in the water and cook on low heat until their flavor is thoroughly extracted – then set aside to cool.
  6. Pour in the sugar, mirin and sake into the pan. This combination will add a well-rounded sweet flavoring to the pork and pumpkin – approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Add a pinch of salt and shoyu over the pumpkin and pork mixture.
  8. Cook the mixture in the pan until all the liquid inside the pan evaporates. Once the liquid is gone, turn off heat and set aside.
  9. Cook the dry somen following the instruction packet. 1 bundle of somen per person is the serving size.
  10. Once the somen is cooked, throw the noodles into a colander and place under cold running water to cool down, then drain all the water.
  11. Place the drained and cool somen noodles into a bowl and place the pumpkin and pork topping as a mound over the somen.
  12. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion and serve with cold broth. We recommend a white sesame cold broth, but you can enjoy with any broth you’d like.


White Sesame cold broth for somen:

  • White sesame paste – 1.5 tablespoon
  • Dashi – 1.25 cups
  • Mirin – 1.5 tablespoon
  • Sake – 1.5 tablespoon
  • Sugar – 1.5 tablespoon
  • Shoyu – 1.5 tablespoon
  • Salt – pinch


  1. Get a small saucepot and place on stove over low heat
  2. Place the white sesame paste into the saucepot first
  3. Add in the other ingredients little by little to melt the white sesame paste into a creamy liquid
  4. Once the white sesame paste is completely melted, turn off the heat and the broth is done. Pour the broth into a small cup and enjoy the broth by pouring directly all over the somen noodles or use as a dipping sauce so that you dip the cold noodles into the cup for flavor


Somen topped with Natto, Grated Mountain Yam, Umeboshi, Shiso and Lightly Fried Japanese Eggplant with Dashi Dipping Sauce:


  • Japanese eggplant – 4
  • Natto – 2 packets
  • Mountain yam – 5 inch piece
  • Shiso – 1 packet
  • Umeboshi (pickled plum) – 2 plums
  • Dashi – 1.25 cups
  • Mirin – 2 tablespoons
  • Sake – 2 tablespoons
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Soy sauce – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt – pinch
  • Canola oil – 2 cups


  1. Cut the Japanese eggplant into quarters by first cutting the eggplant in half lengthwise, then cutting the half slices in half to make quarter pieces
  2. Make small shallow cuts into the skin of the eggplant to help it absorb oil when you cook them. Cut 2 slices into the skin lengthwise, then 4 slices perpendicular to that in a hashtag formation
  3. Pour oil into a pot and place over medium heat. Wait until the oil reaches 356 degrees, then add the quartered eggplant pieces
  4. Flip and turn the eggplant in the oil as it cooks until the meat of the eggplant starts to turn a golden brown
  5. Pull the eggplant out of the oil and set it on a plate that is covered in 2 sheets of paper towel. Make sure the paper towel pieces absorb the excess oil from the eggplant
  6. Peel the skin of the mountain yam and then grate it on a grater – collect the gooey grated substance and place inside a bowl – set aside
  7. Open up the packet of shiso and cut the shiso leaves in very thin slices – set aside
  8. Take the 2 umeboshi plus and peel off the skin and meat and set aside on a small plate. Discard the hard seed inside.
  9. Open the 2 natto packets and put both contents inside a bowl. Take a pair of chopsticks and stir the natto until it becomes very sticky to each other – set aside
  10. Make the dashi following the dashi step in the recipe above, then add the other ingredients to the dashi to make the dipping sauce: mirin, sake, sugar, soy sauce, and salt. Mix together and set aside.  If the dashi is warm and the dipping sauce is also warm as a result, place the dipping sauce in a bowl and place that bowl inside a larger vessel with ice to cook down
  11. Cook the somen according to the package directions. 1 bundle of somen per person is the serving size.
  12. Once the somen is cooked, throw the noodles into a colander and place under cold running water to cool down, then drain all the water.
  13. Place the drained and cool somen noodles into a bowl and place the eggplant in a star formation on the somen first. Then add a mound of grated mountain yam, sprinkle on the shiso slivers, add nato on top of the shiso, then add a garnish of umeboshi on top of the nato
  14. Enjoy the somen by pouring the cold dipping sauce all over the noodles and mixing all the elements together, or enjoy the somen by dipping the cold noodles and toppings into the dipping sauce, and coating the noodles in sauce before eating.

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