Soba(蕎麦), which means buckwheat, is one of the most popular Japanese noodles made out of mainly buckwheat flour. It is a dish that fits all seasons from summer to winter and can be served cold or hot to match with the according weather. The soup or dipping sauce for soba is usually thin and light, made from soy sauce and mirin sauce, sometimes with miso or other spices.
The very first appearance of soba happened 9000 years ago, yet, it is not in the form of noodles. Soba was made in several other forms, including soba-gaki (そばがき) which is a big piece of buckwheat flour dough with sauce and spice, soba-mochi (そばもち) which is a bite-size buckwheat flour mochi and more.
Soba-kiri (蕎麦切り), the noodle form of soba, was invented during the Edo period (16th century) and was cooked and served in steamers.
Soba flour, which comes from buckwheat flower, was used as a survival food at an early age in Japan due to its tolerance with both hot and cold weather, and the ability to grow in desolated soil. It usually takes around 2 to 3 months before harvesting can be done, which is around half the amount of time to grow rice.
Types of Soba
The most common types of soba include ju-wari (十割) and ni-hachi (二八). Each one represents the ratio of buckwheat flour to wheat flour, while ju-wari means the use of 100% buckwheat flours, ni-hachi means a 2:8 ratio of 20% wheat flour and 80% buckwheat flour. There are more variations nowadays, including 3:7 or 5:5, depending on the recipe. The more wheat flour is used, the smoother the noodles will be, however, the authentic taste of buckwheat will be reduced.
Steps of Soba
1) Prepare the sauce
No preparation steps need to be done for soup based soba, but only soba noodles with dipping sauce. Wasabi, green onion and grated daikon are usually provided, which can be mixed into the dipping sauce according to personal preference.
2) Dip your noodles in.
Try the dipping sauce with a tiny portion of soba and make adjustments if needed. If not, dip in your noodles and enjoy the meal!
Next week, we will look into a highly rated soba restaurant in Kyoto, Japan, and experience a lightweight noodle course.