Somen Salad

Along with The Silver Palate, The Joy of Cooking, and other usual suspects, my mother's kitchen bookshelf has always held various cookbooks from Japanese-American churches in California—you know, the type put together by a committee of church ladies and sold for fundraising purposes.

Typically, these spiral-bound affairs are divided into two parts: one for "western" food—where you'll find tuna casseroles and E-Z Pot Roast and brownies and Chex mix—and one for Asian food (always heavy on the Japanese). I own a couple of these books myself, and I've found that their true value lies here: with the oden, nishime, okonomiyaki and sushi rice—usually with a handy diagram for rolling.

Of course, many of the "Japanese" recipes are about as Japanese as General Tso's Chicken is
Chinese. They have Japanese elements, sure, but were created by Japanese Americans, often several generations removed from the homeland. Thus, the inclusion of Teriyaki Chicken Nuggets. A mysterious concoction dubbed "Multi-Veggie 'Pinkie' Namasu." And yet more Chex mix—albeit a very special JA variant involving furikake, a mixture of seaweed and seasonings normally eaten with rice, not crunchy breakfast cereals.

Falling squarely into this not-quite-Japanese-but-Japanese-ish category is Somen Salad, a delightful combination of silky somen noodles, egg, ham, fish cake, and veggies, all tossed together with a sesame-vinegar dressing. Every JA church cookbook worth its salt contains at least three versions. It is the most refreshing, perfect-for-summer pasta salad I can think of—and, importantly, makes a fabulous take-along lunch for work. Unlike most pasta salads, this one is delicious cold, straight out of the fridge.

The following recipe is adapted from A Taste of Heaven: Favorites of Yesterday & Today, published by the West Los Angeles United Methodist Church in 1995.


2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sesame oil
5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine ingredients, stirring until sugar is dissolved

10 ounces dried somen noodles
5 scallions, thinly sliced
3 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
1 kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) cut into slivers
5 ounces ham, cut into strips
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 eggs

Put water on to boil. Beat eggs with a fork, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a small skillet with oil, heat, and add enough egg to cover bottom. When egg crepe is almost fully set, flip and cook a few seconds more. Repeat until eggs are used up. Slice egg crepes into strips. Boil somen noodles until done (just a minute or two), drain, and rinse well under cold water. Drain well again, and combine somen in a large bowl with egg, ham, scallions, kamaboko, lettuce, scallions, and cucumber. Toss with dressing to taste.

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Kalyn's Kitchen for more Weekend Herb Blogging!

Main Dishes, Salads, Pasta, Japanese and Japanese American Recipes
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  • 6/27/2007 11:24 AM Bon Vivant wrote:
    I recently bought this bargain cookbook entitled "Haruki's Japanese Home Cooking." In it is a recipe that I've been trying to make for weeks for a simple somen salad. I so wanted to make this salad that I even braved a Friday's rush hour traffic to go to a Korean market in order to purchase the somen.

    Alas, I was too busy to make it but now I can make your recipe too!

    PS: the lentil soup was just lovely and your shrimp salad recipe inspired me to make my own version of a great shrimp salad.
    1. 6/27/2007 11:30 PM Sarah Kiino wrote:
      Hi Bon Vivant--I love Japanese home cooking and I'm going to see if I can get a copy of that book on Amazon. Glad you liked the lentil soup and shrimp salad too!
  • 6/27/2007 2:26 PM Yvo wrote:
    This looks yummy, don't think I've had anything like it at all before.... mmm. And the cookbooks sound intriguing... I wonder if I could get my hands on any of those. Thanks for sharing! As always, love the pics
    1. 6/27/2007 11:36 PM Sarah Kiino wrote:
      Hi Yvonne--Thanks! you should try making it--easy and very refreshing. I will e-mail you the church's contact info--not sure how often the cookbook is published, but I'm sure you can order the most recent edition if you'd like.
  • 6/28/2007 12:25 PM Kalyn wrote:
    Hey, fun seeing your picture. Did I miss that or is it new? This salad sounds great. I love this type of salad, even if it's not authentic Asian cooking, it tastes good to me. Be sure to send me the link so I don't miss you in the recap.
    1. 6/28/2007 9:05 PM Sarah Kiino wrote:
      Hi Kalyn! Yeah, my picture is a new one--thought I'd put up a photo from the beer garden for summer. I'll definitely e-mail the link before Sunday! Thanks--
  • 7/2/2007 3:57 AM MeltingWok wrote:
    Hmm you look familar, I thought I've seen you before..Anyway, your noodle salad looks great, perfect for the summertime
    1. 7/2/2007 8:34 PM Sarah Kiino wrote:
      Hi Melting Wok--really? That's funny . . . I wonder from where. Thanks for your comment (and I love the name of your blog!)
  • 7/19/2007 5:32 PM Claire Walter wrote:
    These recipes make me want to get away from my computer and start cooking. Each picture is more enticing than the previous one, and the recipes are enticing too. - Claire,
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