Somen Noodle Salad

Summer in Japan makes me think of fireflies, green rice paddies as far as the eye can see, yukata, fireworks, wind-chimes, beer gardens and of course somen. Somen noodles are extremely thin wheat noodles that are sold dried and often eaten in summer in Japan. They are also eaten in the cooler months in a warm soup dish called nyumen but summer is when they shine. You will probably see displays of them in the supermarket, on TV commercials and images of it everywhere, often of the noodles on a glass plate with a perfect green momiji leaf next to it.

To me, chilled somen noodles dipped in mentsuyu – a light dipping sauce made from dashi, sugar and soy sauce – is the quintessential summer dish. On its own, its nutritional value is questionable but in the heat of summer it is refreshing and sometimes all I can stomach. Of course just eating cold noodles in sauce all summer can’t do, so mix it up with this simple Japanese-style noodle salad. Somen noodles are mixed with tuna, mayonnaise, cucumber and onion in a dish that reminds me of the pasta salads I often made at home in summer.

Serves 1-2



100g somen noodles

1 small can of canned tuna (around 90g)

¼ medium onion

1 cucumber

4 tbsp. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

A dash of soy sauce


  1. Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente (around 2 minutes). Rinse under cold water and drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the onion into thin slices and soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and squeeze to remove excess water.
  3. Cut the cucumber into thin slices and season with a bit of salt. Leave for 5-10 minutes and squeeze to remove excess water.
  4. Drain the tuna.
  5. Mix the noodles, tuna, onion, cucumber and mayonnaise in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper and soy sauce to taste.


  • Somen noodles cook incredibly fast so keep an eye on them. Mix them around with some chopsticks when they’re cooking to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
  • Substitute the canned tuna with ham if you prefer.
  • When making pasta salads I often add diced celery or capsicum (bell peppers) and I imagine they would work well in this recipe as well.


I can’t believe it’s nearly been a whole year since I began writing these monthly articles.  Time seems to just fly by here in Japan. This is my last article as I will be finishing up on JET this July and heading back home to Australia in August. I hope you enjoyed reading the recipes each month and tried some of them out.

I think that although a lot of people love eating Japanese food, they tend to think it’s hard to make and have no idea where to start. Whilst that may be true of the elaborate kaiseki meals, Japanese home cooking is actually quite simple and with a few basic ingredients– soy sauce, mirin, rice wine, sugar, dashi and miso–   you’re pretty much set.

I know a lot of JETs miss food and ingredients from their home country which is completely understandable – I always crave Australian tasty cheddar cheese – but I know that when I go home I’ll miss so many things here, too. I hope you make the most of amazing seasonal ingredients available here, you can always eat the other stuff when you go back home. I hope I managed to inspire some of you to try your hand at Japanese cooking. Thank you, goodbye and happy experimenting!


Helen Yuan





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