Nagashi Somen: The Japanese Noodles You Have To Catch First

Maybe you remember an ice luge from a party: a carved piece of ice fashioned into a long track for liquor to be poured into, slid down, chilled, and ultimately end up in a glass or someone's mouth. What if we told you there's something similar that involves noodles? Nagashi somen could easily be added to a list of Japanese dishes you need to try at least once, although it should be noted that it's a seasonal dish.

This all-you-can-eat delicacy can be found in and around Tokyo during the hot and humid summer months when sweating citizens are desperately crunching on crushed ice and lapping up ice creams (via Tokyo Cheapo). Core 77 depicts a scene like a Hot Wheels course, with a track of flowing water, diners poised at the ready with chopsticks, and noodles gliding down the bamboo course waiting to be picked up and eaten. You may have thought you have tried all the noodles and pasta in the books, but Nagashi somen isn't just a type of noodle: It is an experience.

What is nagashi somen?

Nagashi somen translates to "flowing noodles," which is a pretty accurate description, per Serious Eats. Though there are many Japanese noodles to know about, this particular serving style was the brainchild of a few Japanese entrepreneurs who sought to draw attention to the clear, clean streams, in the southern region of Tosenkyo, that surrounded their restaurant.

Somen, a thin flour noodle, is typically eaten cold and dipped into a soy-based broth, explains Japan Rail Times. When servers are ready to slide noodles down a long bamboo pipe, they alert diners with a shout, and the noodles are sent down the luge until the final batch –  usually colored pink or red — acts as a signal that the feast is coming to an end. Ikidane Nippon warns that your chopstick skills will be given a good run, so this might not be the ideal dining experience for the less dexterous among us — or a first date.

Where to eat nagashi somen

If you can't make it to a restaurant serving the unique noodles, Serious Eats notes that some ingenious families have propped up bamboo reeds in their backyards and used a hose to help send nagashi somen down the pathway. Cucumbers, tomatoes, ginger, mushrooms, and shrimp can be added on top of the noodles once they are placed into bowls of soy broth. For those failing at the noodle-collecting task, Atlas Obscura notes a basket is usually set out to collect noodles that were not grabbed by chopsticks; at the end of the pipe, more accommodating staff will gather the forlorn noodles and serve them to hungry customers. 

Alternatively, you can buy a machine that spins noodles around a basin and host your own noodle-catching dinner party. Or, if you really want to push your noodle limits, you can try to beat the Guinness World Record of sliding noodles down a bamboo shoot over 10 feet in length. Prefer to keep noodles on your own personal plate? Try this cold summer ramen recipe instead.