Summers in DC are particularly warm for the northeast of the US, but this year has been hotter than usual. People have been trying to find ways to stay cool, from taking a break to go to the beach, pool, or cool down with an icy drink.
Noodles are a common standard in most East Asian cuisine, and the summer season brings about a variety of noodle dishes that can be served cold. Cold noodles are common in countries such as Japan and Korea, and there are a number of dishes that are easy to prepare and refreshing on a hot sultry evening.
Soumen are thin white noodles made from wheat flour. They resemble udon noodles in consistency and texture, but resemble angel hair pasta in size. They are usually served with a dipping sauce made from a fish based soup stock, garnished with spring onions, ground ginger, and daikon. It is common to eat soumen with tempura, deep fried battered vegetables and seafood.
Much like Ramen, Hiyashi Chuuka is a Japanese take on a dish made with chinese-style egg noodles. In this dish, the noodles are marinated in a cold sauce and served in a shallow plate, with a variety of toppings on them, The toppings vary depending on who makes the dish, but most of the time include thinly sliced vegetables like cucumber and carrots, thinly sliced pork, and hard boiled egg.
Soba is probably of the most well-known types of Japanese noodle, along with udon, that can be served either hot or cold, depending on the season. The noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which gives them their unique consistency and aroma. Zaru soba are soba noodles served cold, on a bamboo-slat tray from which the noodles get their name. They are usually topped with shredded nori seaweed, eaten with a dipping sauce similar to soumen.
Korea has their own variant of cold noodles as well, known as Naengmyeon. It resembles soba in consitency and color, but is served simmered in an icy broth with some toppings such as cucumbers and korean pear. Depending on the regional taste, it can also be served spicy and seasame oil is usually added to taste.
The great thing about cold noodles is that preparation time is usually minimal, and very easy. They keep fairly well, too, but are of course best eaten fresh. Most asian supermarkets or grocery stores that sell asian products carry a variety of the noodles and their sauces.
Cold noodle dishes are easily customisable and easily prepared. So if you’re feeling a little fatigued from the relentless heat this season, try cooling down with some noodles!