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Soba Japanese noodles
Soba are long, thin Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour. Thiamine rich, the noodles were
adapted from a Chinese recipe by a 9th century Buddhist monk, and soon became a staple of Japanese
cuisine, enjoyed year round in hot wholesome soups, or served cold in mouth watering sauces.
In Japan soba is seen as both a popular, inexpensive fast food, and yet also served in expensive
established restaurants. Dried soba is sold in supermarkets and even convenience stores, along
with instant men-tsuyu soba soup. Eaten hot or cold with chopsticks, it is quite acceptable to slurp
Nagano Prefecture produces the most famous soba noodles, although the bulk of Japan’s buckwheat
is grown in Hokkaido. Buckwheat can be harvested four times a year and so is in plentiful supply.
The milled buckwheat flour is made into a dough then rolled and flattened into a sheet before being
folded numerous times for cutting into long thin noodles. The noodles are cooked in boiling water
Soba is often served drained and chilled on a woven screen of thin bamboo slats called zaru in the
humid summer months. Dried nori seaweed is often sprinkled on it, and the soba is served with
chopped spring onions and wasabi alongside the tsuyu a chilled soup of dashi stock, a sweetened
soy sauce called satojoyu and mirin, a low alcohol, high sugar content rice wine like condiment
essential to Japanese cooking.
In the colder months soba is enjoyed in a hot serving of tsuyu, slightly lighter than the summer
version, and usually with chopped spring onions and blended chilli powder called shichimi togarashi.
Many variations of hot soba are served, the difference being mainly in the toppings added, such
as kake soba with a slice of pureed fish cake called kamaboko, kitsune soba with deep fried tofu,
tempura soba featuring a large fried shrimp or vegetables, and tsukimi, being a raw egg poached
in the hot broth amongst the most popular.
Soba is traditionally eaten on New Years Eve as Toshikoshi Soba. The eating of shinsoba,
the first newly harvested buckwheat is also a ritual enjoyed by the Japanese who appreciate
the slightly sweeter, flavorful taste of the springtime harvested wheat.
Soba restaurants, stalls and eating establishments can be found nationwide, and soba remains
a popular, healthy and tasty traditional Japanese cuisine enjoyed by all.
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