Flowing noodles join turkey in Po’ipu

PO’IPU — A popular spring and summer tradition in Japan made its first appearance on Kaua’I yesterday.

Sheraton Kauai Resort Executive Chef Shoji Namatame worked with staff members of the Po’ipu resort to reate a bamboo chute, which is the heart and delivery system of Nagashi somen, a popular tradition that comes from Namatame’s hometown in Japan.

Namatame said nagashi somen is enjoyed during the late spring and summer months in Japan, and is primarily featured during lunches.

“But, in Hawai’i, because of the weather, we can have nagashi somen all the time,” he noted.

Somen is a thin Japanese noodle made of wheat flour and various salts, and in nagashi somen, which translates to “flowing somen,” somen noodles are put in water that flows along a long, gutter-like pipeline carved from bamboo pieces.

Diners lining the bamboo chute catch the somen with their chopsticks, dip them in a cool broth, and eat them. According to a Web site recipe, the dipping sauce is made up of soy sauce, a fish soup base, and mirin, and is garnished with chopped green onions, wasabi, and other condiments.

Members of the culinary staff at the Sheraton Kauai Resort were excited about the introduction of the popular Japanese dining tradition at the Thanksgiving buffet feast yesterday.

“He (chef Namatame) is the best,” Sonita Dela Cruz said while heading for her cars with Fely Cadiente, both ladies having started their Thanksgiving Day shift at 4 a.m.

“The bamboo slide is really exciting, and you really should check out the cheese station, too. The engineering department did a good job putting it together,” the weary ladies said enthusiastically.

Maile Wilson, one of the hostesses for the Sheraton Kauai dining room, added, “They got the green bamboo from our property.”

“In Japan, it’s much longer,” Namatame said. “The chute is about three or four times longer, and the children love it. But, this is the first time it’s been done in Hawai’i.”

Namatame said that diners position themselves along the length of the bamboo chute armed with their dipping dishes, and the chef attendant at the top feeds somen noodles that flow along the chute. He noted that, once the noodles reach the collection dish at the bottom of the chute, the noodles are discarded.

And, true to Namatame’s word, youngsters’ attention was piqued by the setup that featured bamboo split into various lengths and tied together with fibrous rope to form the base for the chute.

In Japan, “ikuyo” is the command from the somen server that alerts diners, “Hey, somen is coming, are you ready?”

Todd Oldham of the Sheraton Kauai explained that the nagashi somen featured at the resort’s Thanksgiving buffet was just a preview for the re-opening of the Naniwa Restaurant that is scheduled for some time in February, 2006.

Oldham said a nagashi somen station will be part of that Japanese restaurant’s offerings.


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