Known as nyumen in Japan, this quick and nourishing Somen Noodle Soup is a regional food of Nara prefecture. It’s cooked in a delicious dashi broth and filled with nutrient-rich ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, vegetables, fish cake, and egg. You’ll love its simplicity and comfort! It’s ready in just 20 minutes!
Do you believe in the healing power of noodle soup? If so, I have this Somen Noodle Soup just for you. Restorative, warming, and flavorful, it’s a perfect soup for a cold rainy day or a sick day.
The recipe is also incredibly flexible, making it a lifesaver when you’re craving something healthy, simple, and nourishing. What’s not to love!
Somen Noodle Soup: the Regional Food of Nara
Somen noodle soup is called Nyumen (にゅうめん, also written as 煮麺, which literary means “boiled noodles” in kanji characters) in Japan, and it’s a regional dish of Nara prefecture.
The Yamato region in Nara prefecture is said to be the birthplace of the famous Tenobe somen (手延素麺). Their somen noodles are known for their finest strands and superior springy texture.
What Are Somen Noodles?
In case you have never heard of somen noodles, they are made of wheat flour, salt, and water. Simple yet delicious, the noodles are super thin and take almost no time to cook. On their own, somen noodles are mild, but they have the ability to absorb flavor from whatever they’re served with.
While cold somen is common throughout Japan, hot somen noodle soup or nyumen is enjoyed especially in the fall and winter months in the Nara region.
Nyumen consists of a light dashi-based soup and separately-boiled somen noodles. It’s often served with shiitake mushrooms, eggplants, dried shrimp, yuba (tofu skin), and green vegetables.
I love that they are light so they don’t weigh me down, while still bringing plenty of flavor and character to the table.
How to Cook Somen Noodle Soup
The Ingredients You’ll Need
- Dried somen noodles: If you can’t find Japanese brand somen noodles, you can buy Korean somyeon noodles that is typically used for janchi guksu.
- Bok choy
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Kamaboko (fish cakes)
- Somen broth—dashi (Japanese soup stock), soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and salt
- Toppings—green onion, mitsuba, and sesame seeds
The Cooking Steps
- Make somen broth with the dashi and seasonings.
- Cut ingredients and start cooking dense vegetables in the broth, followed by leafy vegetables and mushrooms.
- Cook somen noodles in a large pot of boiling water. Drain and knead the noodles as you rinse.
- Drizzle beaten eggs in the broth, add cooked somen noodles, and garnish with toppings.
- Serve in bowls and enjoy!
Helpful Tips Before Making This Dish
- I included two ways to make the broth in the recipe. The first method involves making the broth from scratch, using dashi and seasonings. The second one is a short-cut method by using mentsuyu (tsuyu)—noodle soup base.
- Double up the broth if you plan to eat it again in the same week.
- Wish to make vegan broth? Use Vegan Dashi!
- Always use a big pot of water to cook the noodles.
- Remove all the wrapping of the noodles. Somen noodles cook fast, only 1.5 to 2 minutes! Therefore, you need to act fast. All the noodles should be added to the boiling water at the same time.
- After draining the water, wash the noodles as if you are washing clothes by kneading or gently massaging. This is the proper way! Somen noodles use oil to achieve their thinness, so we need to make sure to remove the oil.
- Always start cooking from hard vegetables or dense parts of the vegetable(s)—like the bottom part of bok choy or napa cabbage.
- If you like to add meat or seafood, don’t forget to skim the broth with a fine-mesh skimmer so the broth will stay clean and clear.
- When you add beaten eggs, make sure the broth is simmering so the eggs will become fluffy.
Toppings and Seasoning Ideas for Hot Somen Noodles
This recipe makes an excellent base soup that can be spruced up with any combination of protein, vegetables, or seasonings!
- diced cooked chicken
- seasoned group pork (niku miso)
- thinly sliced pork/beef
- cooked shrimp
- soft/hard boiled egg
- fried tofu
Vegetable & Mushroom Toppings
- sautéed sliced shiitake mushrooms
- cooked whole kernel corn
- cooked baby bok choy
- blanched green beans, broccoli, or spinach
- shichimi togarashi
- la-yu (hot chili oil)
As you can see, the options are endless when comes to making somen noodle soup. This is exactly why I love using this soup as a comforting, healthy meal to keep my family nourished. Feel free to make a big batch of the broth so you can enjoy it throughout the week!
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
- RINKA Rhombus Usuki Sauce Plate
- Two Chrysanthemum Radiate Hasami Sauce Plate
- Seikou Kiln Traditional Pattern Kutani Coaster
Cold Somen Recipes
- Japanese Cold Somen Noodles
- Pork Shabu Shabu and Cold Somen with Sesame Miso Sauce
- Cold Tuna and Tomato Somen
More Delicious Japanese Noodle Soup
Somen Noodle Soup (Nyumen)
For the Somen Broth (from scratch)
For the Somen Noodle Soup
For the Garnish
For the Quick Somen Broth (with concentrated mentsuyu; optional)
- 6 Tbsp mentsuyu (concentrated noodle soup base) (follow the dilution instructions on the bottle; the mentsuyu that I purchased calls for a mentsuyu-to-water ratio of 1 to 7)
- 2⅔ cups water (adjust according to the mentsuyu-to-water dilution ratio on the package instructions; prepare approximately 750 ml or a little more than 3 cups of the somen broth)
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- Gather all the ingredients. For cooking the dried somen noodles, bring a big pot of water to a boil, covered, over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and keep simmering.
To Make the Somen Broth
- In a large pot or donabe (I used this Hario‘s Yukihira Stainless Steel Pot), add 3 cups water and 2 dashi packets. Bring it to a boil, covered, over medium heat. If you have mentsuyu (concentrated noodle soup base), see the instructions below for how to prepare a quick somen broth.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Then, squeeze the liquid from the dashi packets and discard them.
- Add 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1½ Tbsp mirin, 1 tsp sugar, and ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and mix it all together. Turn off the heat. Cover the pot with the lid (so the broth doesn’t evaporate) and set it aside.
To Prepare the Ingredients
- With a knife, cut 1 head Shanghai bok choy in half lengthwise. Then, cut it into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces. Separate the tough white parts and leafy green parts into two groups and set them aside.
- With a vegetable peeler, peel 2 inches carrot and cut it into thin rounds with the knife. Set them aside with the tough white parts of the bok choy.
- Remove and discard the stems of 4 shiitake mushrooms. If you‘d like, create a decorative flower cut on the caps called shiitake hanagiri. Set them aside with the leafy green parts of the bok choy.
- Detach the bottom of the kamaboko (fish cake) by inserting the knife between the wooden board and fish cake. Then, thinly cut into 4 slices kamaboko (fish cake). Set aside with the leafy vegetables.
- Cut 3 sprigs mitsuba (Japanese parsley) and 1 green onion/scallion into small pieces. Set them aside on a small bowl or plate to serve with the soup later on.
- In a small bowl, beat 3 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell) with a whisk (I use a flat whisk that I love) and set aside.
- Remove the ribbons that wrap around the 3 bundles dried somen noodles. The noodles take only 90 seconds to cook; therefore, you want to start cooking the noodles all at once.
To Cook the Somen Noodle Soup
- Add the tough white parts of the bok choy and carrots to the simmering broth. Cook, covered, for 4–5 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the shiitake mushrooms, kamaboko, and leafy green parts of the bok choy to the broth. Cook, covered, for 2 minutes. During this time, cook the somen noodles (instructions in the next section).
- After cooking for 2 minutes, take out the kamaboko and shiitake mushrooms. This is an optional step and only applies if you want to decorate your final dish with kamaboko and shiitake on top of the noodles.
- Slowly drizzle a small amount of the beaten eggs over the simmering broth, which will create a fluffy texture. Place your cooking chopsticks at the edge of the bowl that contains the beaten eggs. This will help drizzle the eggs.
- Add the cooked somen noodles and let them warm up while the eggs continue to cook.
- Place the kamaboko and shiitake mushrooms on top of the noodles. Sprinkle the green onions, mitsuba, and ½ tsp toasted white sesame seeds on top.
- Serve the noodles and broth into individual bowls and enjoy!
To Cook the Somen Noodles
- Add the dried somen noodles to boiling water. Cook according to the package instructions (usually 1½–2 minutes; mine is 1½ minutes). I undercook the noodles by 30 seconds (so I cook the noodles for 60 seconds), since the noodles continue to cook once I place them in the hot broth.
- Stir the noodles occasionally, making sure they do not stick to the bottom or the sides of the pot. After cooking, drain the noodles into a sieve.
- Rinse the noodles in cold running water until they are cool enough to handle. Then, rinse them as if you are washing your clothes. You need to knead/massage the noodles to get rid of the oil. When you have finished, drain well.
To Make the Quick Somen Broth (with concentrated mentsuyu; optional)
- Follow your mentsuyu bottle instructions to make the broth. Your total volume of the broth should be approximately 750 ml or a little more than 3 cups. For my bottle of concentrated mentsuyu, I combine 2⅔ cups water, 6 Tbsp mentsuyu (concentrated noodle soup base), and 2 Tbsp mirin in a large pot. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, cover with a lid. The somen broth is ready to use.
- Refrigerate the noodles, toppings, and broth separately for up to 2–3 days. Reheat in a pot on the stovetop until hot.