Every year during the summer we owe so much to somen noodles!
They feel so smooth when going down; on hot days you can have them mixed with ice, or on cold days in nyumen (a hot soup)… among others. There are many ways to enjoy somen noodles, they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they’re quite handy dried, too.
In Japanese households, siblings battle over the pink or green somen noodles. There must be many people with memories like that.
But to get to the point, even though they are all called somen noodles, did you know that there are various types?
We found many kinds of somen noodles at a showroom, “Hyogo Waku Waku Kan” (‘Exciting Hyogo Hall’) in Hyogo. (The material for this report was gathered during the summer.)
Hyogo prefecture is one of modern day Japan’s typical production areas for somen noodles. The famous Japanese brand Ibonoito is also from Hyogo prefecture.
Above, you can see a generous line-up of somen noodles.
But which one is the tastiest?
We asked for a recommendation from the storeowner, who is from Hyogo prefecture, but he told us that as they all taste different he couldn’t choose one.
If that is the case then… We bought a large selection to enjoy the different flavors!
Even though they are all called somen noodles, there is a wide variety.
Prices range from one extreme to the other, and there are differences in thickness and manufacturing methods, too.
The origin of the name, ‘somen bachi’ is the shamisen’s bachi (the large plectrum used to play shamisen). These noodles are apparently used in clear soups and such.
Well then, let’s see how the flavors differ from each other.
We compared the noodles after simply boiling them.
To be honest… they were all delicious!
We really couldn’t put them in order.
There really were subtle differences in flavors and texture, but to announce the decisive difference…
It is the thickness!
Take a close look at the noodles below.
Starting from the left:
Ibonoito – black strap (special grade product: Made by skilled craftsmen during severely cold seasons).
Ibonoito – red strap (high grade product: The type that can be easily bought from the supermarket, etc.).
Yaku agari somen (noodles that have rested for a fixed period after manufacturing are called ‘hine’ – written with the character for ‘old’).
Kinu shigure ‘Silk rain’ (mochi flavored somen noodles).
Hana iro somen (colored somen noodles in white, greed, yellow and red).
When you take a good look at the cut ends of the noodles…
I wonder if you can tell that the noodles on the left are thinner?
The thickness of the noodles apparently also affects the texture and how the noodles feel going down.
After trying many varieties, this writer personally recommends…
Ibonoito – black strap. This is far and away the best thinness. They feel great going down and although they’re thin, they still have a firm texture.
If talking just about texture, ‘Hine’ also left the feeling of having quite the strong body.
But it’s also hard to give up the colored somen noodles that bring back nostalgic memories…
Dear readers, what’s your favorite type of somen noodle?
Hyogo Waku Waku Kan:
Location: Tokyo Koutsu Kaikan 1st floor underground, 2-10-1 Yuraku-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hyogowakuwaku (Japanese)
URL: http://www.hyogowakuwaku.com (Japanese)
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