Somen noodles and fried eggplant with soy-mirin dipping sauce

Recipe: Iced somen noodles and fried eggplant (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling time for the sauce

Servings: 6

Note: This can be served for lunch or as an appetizer. The noodles take less than 3 minutes to cook, so have all the condiments ready to go before you cook the noodles. If you want more condiments, you can add shredded chicken and other julienned vegetables suggested in the recipe for iced somen with chicken and vegetables. Bonito flakes (dried tuna flakes), myoga root, shiso leaves, pickled plums, shichimi and sansho pepper, wasabi paste, somen noodles and kizami nori can be found at Japanese markets.

Soy-mirin dipping sauce



3 cups water

1 1/2 cups bonito flakes (they should be large flakes)

3 dried whole shiitake mushrooms, softened in warm water for 20 minutes (discard water after softening)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) mirin (sweet sake)

2/3 cup light color soy sauce (usukuchi-shoyu)

In a medium size pan, bring the water, bonito flakes, softened shiitake mushrooms, mirin and light color soy sauce to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes to infuse the flavors. Remove from heat, strain the sauce and discard the bonito flakes. Reserve the shiitake mushrooms; remove any tough stems and slice them thinly and use them as a condiment for the noodles. Let the dipping sauce come to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered until needed. This makes 3 1/2 cups sauce and will keep for 1 week, refrigerated.

Somen noodles and assembly



4 to 5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 Japanese eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2 -inch slices

2-3 myoga roots, cut into 1/8 -inch slices, optional

12 shiso leaves, cut into 1/8 -inch slices

4 scallions, white parts only cut crosswise into 1/8 -inch slices (discard green and root ends)

6 pickled plums (umeboshi), seeded and chopped to form a paste

1/4 cup peeled and grated ginger, from about a 4-inch root (reserve the juice to serve with the grated ginger)

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds