|Posted on July 7, 2012 at 7:10 AM|
"When I slurp a bowl of somen noodles it becomes a summer breeze"
All Japanese noodles can be eaten hot or cold, but it is somen that stars during the hot summer months because Japanese consume them in enormous quantities to stay cool. Why are somen so extraordinarily cooling? Like angel hair pasta, somen is a very thin wheat noodles. They are served in ice water with ice cubes added to give the noodles that extra chilling factor. This is what makes the experience of slurping somen so smooth and satisfying in the summertime.
Noodle experts say good water and good flour make tasty somen noodles. Tokushima in Shikoku Island is known for their good water. Nowadays, 99% of wheat is imported from Australia, Canada and the US and milled in Japan or to Japanese specifications. Shikoku is particularly famous for their udon and somen noodle culture. I visited the Moriwaki family who owns a somen factory in Handa, which is located in the mountaineous side of Tokushima, about 1.5 hours away from the Tokushima airport. It was my first visit to Shikoku Island. I flew in from Tokyo in the morning with my friend Mamiko Nishiyama. We spent a good day at the factory watching how the Moriwakis make their noodles. Their method, which is called "Tenobe" or hand pulled method is a labor of love.
The 78 year old Ms.Moriwaki takes two long wooden sticks to separate and pull the noodles. The pulling is a gradual process that begins with a ball of dough which is pulled and separated into strands of noodles. The noodles are moved to several racks in different sizes where they get further stretched by hand. It's quite laborious process. These elastic noodles appear delicate but they are like thick rubber bands. I tried pulling the noodles myself and was surprised how difficult it was to pull the noodles while keeping the moist strands separate. The noodles are moved to different racks and pulled until they looked long enough to make a curtain. Then they are left to dry. When the noodles are completely dry, they are cut and packaged. Watching the Moriwaki was like going to see a dance performance.
The workroom where they pull the noodles is light and spotless. Fans keep the place cool. The lady is separating the noodles by hand. There are only four familes that make these noodles by hand. The flavor and texture of Handa Somen is outstanding. I brought back a half a suitcase full of Handa somen to do a workshop. It was a beautiful visit.
For Workshop details:
Categories: Noodles, Pasta and Dumplings