Usually, when you see a Japanese drama or movie where they eat noodles, the first thing that comes to mind is ramen. However, that is not always the case for there are a lot of noodles that are eaten in Japan and one of them is soba. Soba is the Japanese term for the word buckwheat but also for noodles which makes sense as it is noodles made of buckwheat flour.
How It Came to Be
As far as history goes, soba is originally from China and was brought to Japan around the end of Jomon period which was around 300BC. As there are records in the Nara period which was around 794 BC of using buckwheat flour to help in fighting a famine, it really did have some roots in the history of Japan which is why it is also served in washoku. Buckwheat is very nutritious and it is very rich in vitamin B. There are two types of color that it takes: white when the flour is produced from the inside of the grain and grey when the skin is also used.
Make Your Own Soba Noodles
Although it may look complicated, making your homemade soba noodles is not that hard at all. All you need to do is to combine the flours, bout the buckwheat flour and the all-purpose flour then pour lukewarm water over it then toss and rub it until it is crumbly. Then you need to scrape the dough and knead it. After that, you flatten it with a rolling pin until it becomes 1/18-inch in thickness. Then you fold it in half and then cut the dough into thin layers and you are ready to cook your noodles.
Name That Soba
There are different dishes where soba is the main star and they are all very delicious. Here are some of them.
- Zaru Soba
This is really a simple dish where you have chilled soba that is served in this traditional basket that is known as zaru. Then a dipping sauce is also there along with some condiments to make the meal more enjoyable.
- Kake Soba
The most popular way to eat your soba is a hot dish. In this dish, soba noodles are boiled then drained with noodle broth. It has a very mild flavor but is usually seasoned with spring onions and at times fish cake is included as well.
If you have tried Japanese tempura and like it then this is something to consider trying out. This dish is a mix of tempura and soba that is served together in two ways: hot or cold. The hot version features the soba topped with seafood tempura and also vegetable tempura. On the other hand, the cold version comes with dipping soup where both the tempura and the soba should be dipped as you eat them.
- Kitsune Soba
This dish also comes in two versions: hot and cold, where the soba is topped with a thin sheet of fried tofu. It is a dish that is available all over Japan. This is really something worth trying.
Find That Soba
If you are too busy to try making your own or you want to try out a more authentic feel, then you can go to the best restaurants in Tokyo that makes soba and enjoy the simple but delicious soba that they can offer to you. Here are some of them.
- Kanda Matsuya
This store was dated to be built around 1924 and its wooden settings and half-roofs together with their giant paper lanterns that are hanging outside their place will definitely make you feel very nostalgic. It is located in Chiyoda in Tokyo and the price ranges from a thousand yen and more. They are closed on Sundays and open on Mondays to Saturdays and also during holidays.
- Soba to Sake Akira
Should you happen to be in the Nishi-Azabu area, then visiting this restaurant should be easy. Their soba noodles are made by hand each morning with their ingredients as fresh as can be as it is from the farmers directly. Their specialty dish is called the Jun-seiro which is noodles made from 100% buckwheat flour.
- Kanda Yabu Soba
This restaurant serves delicious soba and also a variety of side dishes that are definitely worth trying for. They are closed on Wednesdays and open for the whole week. If you happen to be near Awajicho station, this is something to consider.
Budgeting can be a bit of a hassle if you want to taste authentic soba noodles and yet do not want to overspend. The range of soba in Minagosa is under 1000 yen so you get the best deal. It is interesting to take note of that their side dishes such as burdock, carrots, tempura and fish sausages are at the right-hand counter all lined up. If you want to see how your soba is made you might want to sit on the counter seats.
The best soba is that which suits your taste the most, so go ahead and try them all out and keep exploring the wonders of this undiscovered gem.
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.