I love noodles. In the winter, there is nothing I enjoy more than a steamy bowl of pho+? or ramen. And in the summer, there are few things that can be as refreshing as a bowl of ice-cold chilled noodles. The Koreans and the Japanese both have well-developed cold soup noodles, and I love both of them very, very much. I find myself indulging in either the Korean Mul Neng Myun or some rendition of cold Japanese noodles on a weekly basis every summer.
I admit - these cold noodles are not for everyone. The Mogurin, one of the most advanced Asian food converts, is not a big fan of cold noodles. It reminds him of worms, and despite my many attempts at breaking down his resistance, he still prefers his noodles warm. But I swear - cold noodles on a steamy hot afternoon, sitting outside on a sunny day with a pre-chilled bowl filled with ice and noodles - that's a savory summer treat like no other!
Although there are many, many types of Japanese noodles, I find myself making udon most frequently. That's partly due to my mother sending me what appeared to be a life time supply eight years ago. Yes, EIGHT years ago. I am still using the same box of dried noodles. Thankfully, my stock is starting to dwindle down and I might be able to justify purchasing non-udon noodles soon...
I make my cold udon by cooking it in hot water until desired softness - for me, this is firm. I like my noodles chewy, whether it is udon, ramen, or neng myun (one of the reasons I love neng myun so much is because of its firmness). The key step in enjoying any kind of udon is in the post-cooking step. One must wash the hell off of it - scrub it like dirty laundry (sans soap, of course). Udon has a lot of excess gluten that needs to be washed off for its true beauty to come out. This process is necessary even when I am making warm udon. In that case, I have another pot of boiling water, which I blanch the udon in after the scrubbing. For cold udon, I just drop the noodles into a pre-chilled bowl filled with ice water.
I make the dashi while the water for the noodles is in progress. It's just a simple dipping soup with bonito broth, and mirin, soy sauce. I chill this in the freezer in the dishware I am serving it in while the noodles cook. By the time the whole process is done, a perfectly chilled dashi is ready for dipping!
Cool, refreshing, easy, and deeply satisfying, a bowl of cold udon is PERFECT for an outdoor summer lunch on a lazy weekend!