Japanese Summer Recipes - Sunomono and Somen! (Vegan-Friendly, Too!)

Summer is just around the corner, and its already getting really hot in Tokyo! Japan is infamous for its extremely hot and humid summers that last from May until late September, and trust us when we say its hot all the time. Japanese people have a lot of ways to beat the heat, and one of them is making and enjoying cold but delicious summer foods! And we aren’t just talking about ice cream; Japanese summer cuisine actually features quite a few savoury meals that are surprisingly refreshing on a hot night. Today we are going to teach you how to make two of the most simple ones, sunomono and somen!

So What are Sunomono and Somen?

Sunomono and somen might not be words you are familiar with because they are not very popular outside of Japan. Sunomono is a Japanese cucumber salad made with vinegar, and somen is a kind of cold noodle soup that is similiar to ramen but a lot more simple. Both of these dishes are popular to eat specifically in the summer, and are fast and easy to make. Most kitchens in Japan do not have air conditioning, so no one wants to stand over a hot stove in a stuffy room longer than necessary. Sunomono and somen both take just a few ingredients and less than thirty minutes from start to finish, and they make a great light lunch or dinner. Plus they aren’t heavy at all, which will leave you feeling good after you eat them even when summer is doing everything it can to make you feel sluggish otherwise.

1. Sunomono (Japanese cucumber salad) - Vegetarian/Vegan friendly!-2 servings

What you need:

Japanese cucumber (they are thinner and seedless compared to American cucumbers, but if you can’t find one, you can still use an American one!)

1/2 tsp

dried seaweed
1/2 tbsp

dried sesame seeds
1/4 tbsp

rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp

1 tbsp

soy sauce
1/4 tsp

How to make:

  1. 1

    First, start with the sauce. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and 1/4 tsp of salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together and taste it. If the vinegar taste is too strong, you can dilute it with water. Set this aside.

  2. 2

    Next, rehydrate your seaweed if necessary. This can be done by leaving it in a bowl of water for ten minutes.

  3. 3

    Now for the hardest step; peeling the cucumbers. If you want a really traditional sunomono, try to peel the cucumber in stripes so that you have some strips of skin, and strips without it. Then cut the cucumber into thin, round pieces.

  4. 4

    Take your remaining salt and rub it into the cucumber pieces. Let these salted cucumbers sit to the side for five minutes.

  5. 5

    Squeeze the water from the seaweed, and add it and the cucumber pieces to your sauce. Mix it all until the piece are well-coated. Finally, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and enjoy it!

  6. 6

    And the longer it sits, the better it gets!

2. Somen (Cold Noodle Soup)-2 servings

What you need:

dry somen noodles
4 bundles

green onion

fresh ginger or ground ginger
1/2 inch or 1 1/4 tsp

1/2 cup

1 1/8 cup

soy sauce
1 cup

kombu (dried kelp)
1 piece

dried bonito flakes
1 cup

How to Cook It:

  1. 1

    First, make the soup base, which is called mentsuyu. Boil the sake over medium heat until the smell of alcohol disappears from it. Then add the mirin, soy sauce, kombu, and bonito flakes and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for five minutes. Drain the sauce through a sieve and set aside to cool, or pop it in the fridge to make it nice and cold!
  2. 2

    Now its time to cook the noodles. Somen noodles cook very quickly, so be careful to avoid overcooking them. Boil water and add the noodles, cooking according to the instructions on the packaging. Be sure to stir them constantly with chopsticks to keep them from sticking! Drain the noodles when they are ready and immediately rinse them with cold water.
  3. 3

    Cut the green onion into fine pieces, and grate the ginger if you are using fresh. Put these into small serving bowls to be used as toppings according to your taste.
  4. 4

    The mentsuyu you made is concentrated, so it needs to be diluted before you use it. Mix it with some ice water (you can taste it so see how strong you like the flavour!) in a small bowl. Add as much green onion and ginger as you like to the sauce as well.
  5. 5

    Somen is traditionally eaten by dipping it into the sauce! But if you are having a hard time doing so, you can also pour the sauce into a bowl with the noodles and eat it like ramen.

Final Thought

Next time you’re feeling hungry but not motivated to cook on a hot evening, why not try making sunomono or somen? The ingredients are not too hard to find, especially if you have an Asian supermarket nearby. Both meals will leave you feeling surprisingly refreshed and satisfied, and they won’t break the bank to make, either. Have fun making them and trying something new!

Have you ever had sunomono or somen before? Are you excited to try making them now? Did you try out our recipe? How did it turn out? We are open for comments and questions below!

soumen-fruits-basket-2 Japanese Summer Recipes - Sunomono and Somen! (Vegan-Friendly, Too!)


Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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