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Iced somen noodles with chicken and vegetables with spicy ginger sesame sauce

Iced somen noodles with chicken and vegetables with spicy ginger sesame sauce
Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

"When I slurp a bowl of somen noodles it becomes a summer breeze." I am at the Granada Market, the neighborhood mom-and-pop grocery in West Los Angeles where I get my Japanese staples. The fish counter looks cheerful with roses ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus chilling time for the chicken | Serves 6

Steamed chicken

  • 2 small (or 1 large) chicken breasts, about 1 pound total
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 green onion, white part cut crosswise into 1/8 -inch slices (green and root tip discarded)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and thinly sliced ginger (from a 1-inch piece)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Step 1Toss the chicken with the sake, onion and ginger in a shallow, heat-proof bowl large enough to hold the chicken.

Step 2Prepare a stove-top steamer and place the chicken, still in the bowl, on the rack in the steamer. Steam the chicken until the meat is cooked through; it will be firm and opaque and the juices will run clear, 20 to 25 minutes.

Step 3Remove from heat and cool the chicken in the bowl with the flavorings, then refrigerate the chicken, still in the bowl, until completely chilled. The chicken can be cooked up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated before shredding.

Step 4Shred the chicken into matchstick pieces about 3 inches long. Place the chicken in a medium bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Refrigerate the chicken, covered, until ready to use.

Spicy ginger sesame sauce

  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice (juiced from the grating of 1 small knob ginger)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame paste (atari goma or neri goma) or tahini
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon tobanjan (Chinese hot miso paste) or 1/2 teaspoon la yu (Chinese chile oil) or to taste, optional

Step 1In a medium bowl, whisk together the ginger juice, sesame paste, sugar, sake, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and water. Add the tobanjan or the la yu, a little at a time as desired (add the tobanjan one-eighth teaspoon at a time to taste, and the la yu a few drops at a time to taste), mixing and tasting until the desired heat is achieved. Strain if desired for a smoother sauce. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Noodles and assembly

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 3 bunches (300 grams) dried somen noodles
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • Steamed chicken
  • 2 cucumbers (Japanese or Persian), peeled and cut into matchsticks 1/8 -inch wide and about 3 inches long
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks 1/8 -inch wide and about 3 inches long
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into matchsticks 1/8 -inch wide and about 3 inches long
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped (about 1/4 cup) or 3 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise (white and green parts)
  • 1 small bunch daikon (radish) sprouts, trimmed to remove roots, optional as garnish
  • 6 to 8 shiso leaves, thinly sliced, optional as garnish
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Spicy ginger sesame sauce

Step 1Break the eggs into a small bowl and stir together.

Step 2Heat a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon oil. Reduce the heat to low and gently add half of the egg to the pan, tilting the pan to form a large, thin crepe. Cook quickly and gently, careful not to burn (it should be completely yellow) but cooking until the egg is set and cooked through. Remove the crepe to a cutting board to cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining oil and egg.

Step 3When the first crepe is cool enough to handle, halve it to make two moons. Trim the edges to form each half into a rectangle about 3 inches wide. Cut each rectangle crosswise into matchsticks one-eighth inch wide. Set the sliced egg aside and repeat with the remaining crepe. Cover and refrigerate until needed. The egg can be prepared and refrigerated a few hours in advance.

Step 4Cook the somen: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles, spreading them apart so they do not stick together while cooking. When the water returns to a boil, add half-cup tap water. Cook the noodles until they are al dente, about 3 minutes total cooking time. Immediately remove from heat.

Step 5Drain the noodles and cool them in a large bowl of water under running tap water. Gently swirl the noodles in the running water until the water runs clear. Drain the noodles again.

Step 6Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the ice and enough water to mostly cover the noodles. Chill the noodles for at least 3 to 5 minutes before serving. The noodles will dry out rather quickly after they are removed from the water so try to keep the noodles in the water until just before serving.

Step 7When ready to serve, remove the noodles from the ice water and strain lightly. Make a bed of noodles on an oblong platter. Arrange the chicken, cucumber, carrot, green pepper and the egg matchsticks around the noodles. Garnish with chives, daikon radish sprouts, shiso leaves (one or all of them) and the roasted sesame seeds.

Step 8Let each person help themselves to the noodles. You can use small serving dishes. Toss the noodles, chicken and vegetables together and serve in individual dishes. Pass the ginger sesame sauce around. You only need two or three teaspoons to season each serving.

Note: The degree of heat in the sauce is determined by the amount of tobanjan (hot Chinese miso paste) or la yu (hot Chinese chile oil) you use. You can also omit these seasonings and simply make a ginger sesame sauce. Alternatively, the soy-mirin dipping sauce used for the iced somen noodles with eggplant can also be served with this recipe as a second sauce, in which case you will need deeper serving bowls. Tobanjan and shiso leaves can be found at Japanese markets. Japanese tahini (sesame paste) is called atari goma or neri goma. You can find it at the Japanese market but tahini will work too. Stir the atari goma with a spoon before spooning out of the can as it will separate (the oil will rise to the surface).


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