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
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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Categories: Main Dishes, Salads, Pasta, Japanese and Japanese American Recipes
Technorati Tags: food, cooking, recipes, pasta salads, japanese noodles, weekend herb blogging
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