Slippery When Wet

26 Jul

It’s summer, and it’s hot. Somen, thin Japanese noodles, usually arrive at the table in a bowl of ice cold water. Served with a cool dipping sauce garnished with ginger and sliced green onions, this is the perfect summer food – light, flavourful, and most importantly, COLD!

But wait… why not bump up the summertime fun? Want a little extra excitement for your backyard party? Send your noodles slip-sliding down a waterslide and watch (and take pictures!) as your guests try to catch their meal with chopsticks! That’s right – way back when ice was a major luxury, the Japanese would cut a long piece of bamboo in half lengthwise, and build a water slide running from a cool stream into their picnic area. Then, the designated shmuck would be sent to the water source with a bowl of noodles and ordered to send bite-sized portions down the chute, to be caught, dipped, and eaten by the rest of the crew. Hurray for nagashi-somen! (Note for language buffs: nagashi = to drain or run a fluid.)

Nagashi Somen

No bamboo? How about this little machine? Photo courtesy of

No bamboo in the backyard? No access to a miniature fake bamboo slide set for your table? No problem! Improvise with a series of pop bottles cut in half, with half of a corrugated tube, or whatever you can find and prop up! Just make sure to run a hose from the top to provide lubrication, and to prop a colander at the end of the chute to catch what slips through your chopsticks. Lastly, slather on the sun screen and make sure that everyone is wearing thongs (a.k.a. flip-flops) … things are about to get wet!!

Nagashi Somen Party

Nagashi Somen at home!

Ingredients for Somen


  • One portion of somen per person (it usually comes bundled in single portions)
  • Water for boiling
  • Plenty of water and ice for cooling

Dipping Sauce (per 2 people):

  • 1 cup dashi soup, chilled
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp mirin
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp cooking sake
  • Grated ginger or wasabi (1/4 tsp) and sliced green onion (1/2 Tbsp) to garnish

How to make Somen

  1. Prepare the sauce by dissolving the stock powder in about ¼ cup of boiling water. Mix in the remaining amount of water and the other sauce ingredients. Chill in the fridge, about 30 minutes, and divide into individual cups or bowls for dipping.
  2. Drop the noodles into plenty of boiling water and cook for a few minutes, until they are cooked through. While they are boiling, prepare a colander and a large bowl of ice water (be generous with the ice!)
  3. Drain the noodles and flash chill by dropping the whole colander right into the big bowl of ice water. Stick your hand in, and shake the noodles around, ensuring that they all get exposed to the frigid water. Keep shaking and mixing the noodles until they (and your hands!) are chilled right through. You may need to drain the water and add fresh, cold water and more ice!
  4. Serve the noodles! Garnish the dipping sauce with either ginger or wasabi and green onion, and serve the noodles either in one communal bowl or in individual bowls of ice water. Want to get slippery? Send the chilled noodles down a slippery slide in roughly ¼ cup sized portions for guests to catch and dip. Hint: use waribashi, the wooden chopsticks you get at Japanese restaurants, for the best traction. Slippery chopsticks are for slip-n-slide pros only!

Let’s try slippery forking!!

BBQ Party

Thank you, everyone, for slippery times!

Thank you to my hosts, Aya and Kazu, for making this Japanese tradition come to life!


One Response to “Slippery When Wet”

  1. Chris July 26, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    So, if you’re better at catching the noodles, does that mean you get to eat more?

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