This is a popular snack in Japan in the summer and I think that you, too, will appreciate its refreshing qualities on a warm day. Make the sauce in the cool of the previous evening if you like; it will keep well in the refrigerator for at least a week. The noodles, may be cooked and refrigerated, and the vegetables prepared hours ahead of mealtime, too.
In a small saucepan, mix the stock, light soy sauce, and syrupy rice wine and heat through. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the bonito flakes over the mixture. Allow them to steep for 3 minutes, then pour the broth through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander. Chill the sauce in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
Place the sea tangle in a bowl of warm water to cover for 15–20 minutes. Drain, then rinse the sea tangle thoroughly under fresh cold water. Pat the sea tangle dry on paper towels; then, with a knife, trim away any tough stems. Coarsely chop the sea tangle and set it aside.
Wash the cucumbers well and slice off a ½-inch piece from the stem (darker green) end of each. Using this stem piece, rub the cut surface with circular motions until a thick white foam appears; rinse it away.
This is what the Japanese call aku nuki or “bitterness removal.” Trim the opposite end of the cucumber, then cut it into thin slices slightly on the diagonal. Stack several of these slices at a time and cut them into narrow julienne strips. The strips will be tipped in dark green, while the centers will be pale. Set aside the cucumber strips, covered with clear wrap to keep them fresh.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles over high heat. If using fresh noodles, cook them for 7–8 minutes after the water has returned to the boil. Test a strand; it should be firm but tender, with no hard core. If using dried noodles, scatter them across vigorously boiling water. Add
In a clean, dry skillet, roast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat for 30–40 seconds or until they begin to color slightly or a few pop. Shake the pan to keep the seeds in motion. Set aside.
Assemble the noodle salad just before serving. Rinse the noodles under fresh cold water and drain them. The Japanese often serve cold noodles on either a slatted mat, to allow excess water to drain to the plate beneath, or submerged in ice water in a deep bowl. Choose the easiest method for yourself. Garnish individual or communal dishes or bowls with a mound of the chopped sea tangle and a pile of cucumber shreds. Serve the chilled sauce separately, adding the sesame seeds and the slivers of lemon zest to it at the last minute. Each person lifts noodles from the mat or bowl of ice water, dips them into the chilled sauce, and merrily slurps them down (in Japan, the more noise you make, the better!). The sea tangle and cucumbers are also dipped in the sauce and eaten. The sesame seeds and lemon zest cling to the noodles and vegetables as they’re dipped in the smoky sauce.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.