Japan’s 3 Best Somen Noodle Brands
It is getting warmer and warmer day by day here in Japan. Accordingly, these days when I go shopping at a convenience store near my house, I see several kinds of pre-made cold ramen noodles lined up on the shelf.
In addition to them, when it comes to Japanese noodle dishes that are served cold, Tsukemen and Somen are representatives of such noodle dishes, and they are perfect for summer.
Tsukemen (つけ麺) consists of a shallow bowl of wheat noodles and a bowl of soup for dipping the noodles, so the noodles and the soup are served separately.
It is said that the noodle dish was first created by a ramen shop in Tokyo, Taishoken (大勝軒) (Google Map) in 1955. Hence, Tsukemen is a modern Japanese noodle dish.
On the other hand, Somen (素麺) is a traditional Japanese noodle surprisingly with over one thousand years of history. It is a very thin white noodle made of wheat flour.
Somen is usually sold in dried form so needs to be boiled prior to eating. After boiled, the noodles are cooled down with iced water or running water and then washed by hand in order to remove sliminess on the surface.
We usually eat the chilled Somen noodles dipping in a cold glass cup of Mentsuyu broth.
The 3 Best Somen Noodles in Japan
As Somen has such a long history, there are many brands of Somen noodles in Japan now. Among those Somen brands, have you ever heard of the generally known “Japan’s 3 Best (Major) Somen Noodles (三大そうめん)”?
For people who don’t know them, today I will introduce the 3 Somen brands known as “Japan’s 3 Best Somen Noodles”.
First off, known as the best-selling handmade Somen today, Ibonoito (揖保乃糸) is the most famous Somen brand in Japan.
It is said that the origin of Ibonoito dates back to about 600 years ago, and this Somen is produced around the cities, Tatsuno, Shisou, and Himeji, located in the middle basin of the Ibo river in Hyogo Prefecture.
Ibonoito Somen are fine noodles featuring a smooth and pleasantly chewy texture and making the most of the original flavor of wheat.
Miwa Somen (三輪素麺)
Miwa Somen (三輪素麵) is a brand of Somen noodle produced in the Miwa region around the city of Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, and known as a specialty of the region.
This Somen has the longest history of about 1300 years of all Somen brands in Japan. Hence, it could be said that Japanese Somen has its roots in this Somen.
Miwa Somen is annually made only for a limited time during the winter season from November to March.
The Somen has a distinctive chewy texture and hardly breaks into pieces while being boiled. From these characteristics, this Somen is suitable for being served hot.
Shodoshima Somen (小豆島そうめん)
Shodoshima Somen (小豆島そうめん) is a hand-stretched Somen noodle produced on Shodo-Shima Island in Kagawa Prefecture.
The most striking feature of this Somen is that sesame oil is used when the Somen noodles are stretched by hand.
For that reason, with a yellowish hue, this Somen is characterized by a unique flavor that is somewhat different from other Somen noodles.