This was my second Saturday under the July bright sun. I woke up squinting my eyes from the blazing morning light through my window. I knew it was only getting even more burning from here. My bedroom tasted humid and sweaty, and every breath I breathed in felt suffocating. I got up reluctantly, headed to the sink outside to brush my teeth and immediately dumped my swimsuit inside my bag. I picked a striped linen shirt on my hanger and put on my beach hat, only to rush out and meet Dragana downstairs. We marched to the public pool in the neighborhood while unstoppably whining about the impossible heat along the way. Then we dipped. We dipped and wetted our hair, dancing underwater for an hour and a half. In time like this, it felt as if we were diving in a bowl of mint water. Which was quite a heavenly feeling.
On the way back we stopped by at the local grocery store, and got ourselves some mushrooms, peaches and spring onion for our lunch. Couldn’t bear the thought of having cold soumen (thin white noodles made of wheat flour) to quench our droughty throats, we decided to make one. It’s a simple, quick and easy meal to have during the summer days.
A common dish you’d likely to find in this season in Japan, actually. In fact, it’s a part of typical Japanese summer festival, which is known as the “nagashi soumen”, or “the flowing noodles”. They are served in a long flume of bamboo, swimming in cold iced water, and to eat it you would have to catch them with the chopsticks as they are passing through the stream in front of you. Once you hold them fast, dip them in the broth soy sauce called “tsuyu”, and slurp them passionately as the Japanese do. The light texture and chill savor of soumen combined with the tasty tsuyu’s flavor is addictive if not because of its intoxicating effect to distract the boiling mind for a while.
We obviously don’t have quite a fancy bamboo to flow our soumen, but we came with a better touch to compensate: sliced lemon. This spontaneous sprinkle initially just to use what we had left turned out to be the illuminating taste and perfected our very own soumen recipe. The unexpected delight that is better than imagined. I guess then, again, cooking with mindfulness and ease is what is essential to have a truly enjoyable time over a cherished meal. In between the fervent air and our noisy slurps, we embraced our dillydally summer weekend and collected simple, imperfect happiness like this and smiled gratefully upon it. Otherwise, how should we endure this unforgiving scorching season?
COLD SOUMEN WITH LEMON
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
WHAT YOU NEED
A pack of uncooked soumen (which you can easily get from any Japanese supermarket or convenient store)
Tsuyu sauce (usually sold in 1 liter bottle size and available in any Japanese supermarket or convenient store)
1 stick of spring onion, thinly sliced
A pack of shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced according to preference
2 packs of Japanese tofu, diced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
WHAT YOU DO
1. Boil the washed and sliced mushrooms in a medium pot for 5 minutes. Drain them but keep the water to make the sauce.
2. Bring another pot of water to the boil. Put in all the soumen bundles once the water is boiling, and let it sit for 2 minutes. Drain the water, and rinse the soumen with cold water while trying to separate them with your hand if it’s too sticky.
3. Pour the mushroom water into a serving bowl, half the portion of the bowl, and mix with 3 – 4 tablespoon of tsuyu sauce. You can add or lessen the tsuyu according to your taste.
4. Serve the soumen on a separate plate. Put 3 – 4 sliced lemon on top of it, also the tofu and mushrooms, and sprinkle the spring onion to finalize. You may mix the spring onion in the sauce as well!