Somen noodle, another YAMATO's speciality.
Autumn to Winter style in hot soup
Autumn to Winter style in hot broth
Nagashi Somen (swiming/ Very rare experience!
<B> From Spiring to Summer style: Most popularly served on ice and eaten cool
Miwa in Yamato area is known as the birth place of Somen. Many foreigners are getting more and more familiar with udon, soba (buckwheat noodle), and ramen noodles, but very few people know about somen.
Somen is a white noodle made from wheat flour. It is similar to pasta, but has a lower diameter o less than 1.3mm. It is usually soaked in ice water and eaten cool. One simply dips them in the dashi sauce and enjoys the cool noodles sliding down the throat. Somen is a very popular food in summer time, but especially in cold seasons it is served in a hot soup just like udon. This way, some is called "nyumen". It is delicious whether cold or warm.
Miwa, the birthplace of Somen
"Tales from more than 1200 years ago tells us that Somen was made for the first time by a local clan of Shinto priests who were the descendants of the Kami (Shinto deity) of Ohmiwa shrine. The method of making Somen spread among the common people down the history until today.
Somen noodle are still made with traditional manufacturing methods. Scenes of Somen drying are not renowned as a part of winter. Thinner noodles require more polished technique, and thus they are more expensive. Also, longer aging of noodles grants better texture, making aged noodles higher in quality and price."
(from a guidebook by Sakurai city, "YAMATO Unknown Origin" p17-18)
I usually take guests to 2 local restaurants for lunch after visiting Ohmiwa Shrine.
One is a family owned restaurant with long tradition about 100 years. When we come into the shop, a grand mother 92 year old welcomes us with big smile and greeting words "Irasshai mase!" Their dashi soup when served hot is very good and many guests drink them all. One of the son loves fishing, and often goes to catch fresh fish (yellow tail (Japanese amberjack), sea bream, etc.) He makes very good sushi with generous pieces of fish.
I have never seen this shop closed.
They use only the finest quality Somen that were dryed in the sun in winter, so even served in hot broth, Somen does not get soggy.
One another restaurant is rather new, and very unique in many ways. The owner moved to Miwa from Osaka as he find the potential in this Yamato area. He does not speak Emnglish, but he likes to welcome and entertain foreign guests on his own with amazing hospitality and passion. I was happy to find "vegan" option the owner created. He makes dashi souse with shiitake mushrooms without bonito flakes. (katsuobushi). So, here vegan people can enjoy Somen without animal based ingredients. Another big feature of this shop is, "swimming somen" with a special tool to circulate the flow of water where you can put Somen and float around. It is very entertaining, but I have never experienced this machine and somen restaurants. So far, many guests are happy to have this unexpected new food experience.
Miwa Some is a popular season gift from Yamato area to all over Japan. My mother likes to send somen to our relatives in other parts of Japan in wooden boxes.