Do you find table service overrated at restaurants? Does ordering over the counter feel too restrictive? Why not try nagashi-somen, an original and entertaining way to enjoy lunch at a restaurant!
Before going into too much detail about nagashi-somen, let's start with somen (そうめん, 素 麺).
Somen? What is it? Somen are very thin, white noodles made from wheat flour. In Japan, they are generally eaten cold, dipped in a cold broth. Somen have the distinction of cooking very quickly. The dish is very simple, and very refreshing. Perfect in summer, when the weather is scorching hot!
Catch 'em all
So what exactly is nagashi-somen? "Nagashi" comes from the verb "nagasu" (流す) which literally means "to flow".
Nagashi-somen (流しそうめん) is somen that you need to catch using chopsticks as it flows past you in small packets on a water slide made of bamboo. Just look at the pictures, we aren't making this up!
In some parts of Japan, you can find restaurants offering this rather original culinary specialty. Hardly noticeable for the food itself - which is rather basic and not very elaborate - but for the fun and friendly way it's eaten. Frankly, it should be tried at least once.
Do you plan to visit Kyoto during your stay? If you're interested in trying nagashi-somen, look no further than Kibune (貴船), north of Kyoto. It's THE place to try it. It's a small, picturesque village found on a mountainside. It has only one street: on one side, some buildings and ryokan (旅館, typical Japanese inns); on the other, a river, Kibunegawa (貴船川). You'll see several restaurants built directly above the river itself. It's a wonderful experience to sit at table on a tatami mat a few centimeters above the rushing water of the river. Listen to the flow of water down the slope... and get ready to try nagashi-somen! Be careful not to miss the noodles as they go by, or your neighbor will enjoy them instead! They can travel very fast on their bamboo slide.
Do it yourself
This is really the all-important festive side of nagashi-somen. So, why not do it at home, with family or friends? After all, that's what the Japanese do! Simply install a long sloping slide of bamboo in the garden or in the street. Fix a jet of cold water at the top to flow down the improvised water slide. Diners sit on either side of the bamboo slide, equipped with a bowl of dipping broth and a pair of chopsticks. Choose someone to sit by the water jet and release handfuls of pre-cooked noodles down the slide. You know the rest!