Avant Garde Somen for a Sultry Summer Day

Avant garde somen in a hand-blown glass bowl "shell"by Satoshi Sugie

The upcoming August feature for Savory Kyoto in Kyoto’s Visitor’s Guide will be about cold noodles. Noodles are considered a snack – not a proper meal – in Japan, (as a meal would naturally include rice) but at our house we enjoy them regularly, especially on hot and humid days like today. Somen takes just minutes to boil, and when served in a glass bowl with cold water and a few pieces of floating ice- you can feel your temperature drop on visuals alone. Then, when you dip the delicate noodles, as thin and light as air, into a chilled dashi dipping sauce flavored with just a bit of grated shoga (ginger), you ARE cooler.

This photo was created by my husband, who had the idea to add a few strands of cha-soba for contrast in Rimpa-inspired swirls, and floated a few petals cut from negi atop. I have to admit that while I was a little skeptical at first (because, after all, I’M the one who wears the apron around here) I was impressed by not only his idea but his art direction.

But praise for my husband aside, I think that what makes this dish so visually interesting is the hand-blown glass bowl, entitled “Shell” by glass artist Satoshi Sugie. He and his wife Akiko (also a glass artist) live and work in Kameoka, just north of Kyoto. We happened upon their exhibit at the famous Tachikichi tableware shop on Shijo-dori during our last trip, and plan to visit their studio in the fall.

OK, so I played with the placement of this photo to show the bowl in an unusual way to set off its avant-garde quality, but I have to make some kind of contribution, don’t I?

What did it taste like? Wonderful. The hint of negi was light enough to add just a bit of contrast. But the entire experience was far better- it was like eating from a bowl of ice, suspended in mid-air.

How cool.