Eating soba is a delightful experience when done correctly. Soba is a type of Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, which is known for its unique texture and flavor. It can be served cold in a variety of dishes or hot in soups. If you’re a fan of Japanese food and want to learn how to eat soba like a pro, then you’ve come to the right place!
Choosing the Right Soba Noodles
Before we dive into the details of eating soba, it is important to understand how to choose the right soba noodles. There are three main types of soba noodles:
- 100% Buckwheat Noodles: These noodles are made entirely of buckwheat flour and are gluten-free.
- Standard Noodles: These noodles are made with wheat flour and buckwheat flour in varying proportions.
- Udon Soba Noodles: These noodles are made with both soba and udon flour, yielding a thicker texture.
If you’re seeking a gluten-free option, opt for 100% buckwheat noodles. Otherwise, choose your preferred type depending on your expected texture and taste.
Preparing Your Soba Noodles
Once you’ve selected your desired soba noodles, the next step is to prepare them properly. Here are the steps:
1. Boiling Soba Noodles
Start by boiling water in a pot, and then add the soba noodles. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soba noodles are cooked. Drain the soba noodles afterward.
2. Cold Water Rinse
After boiling the soba noodles, it’s crucial to rinse them in cold water. Rinse thoroughly for at least 20 seconds until the water runs clear. This step stops the cooking process and removes any starchy or slimy texture.
3. Dipping Soba Noodles
If your soba noodles will be eaten cold, such as in soba salad or zaru soba, then the next step is to decide on your dipping sauce. Typical sauces to accompany cold soba noodles include:
- Mentsuyu (noodle sauce)
- Ponzu (soy sauce with citrus)
- Sesame sauce
- Wasabi soy sauce
For zaru soba, one of the simplest and most traditional dipping sauces is mentsuyu, typically mixed with shredded wasabi and scallions.
4. Soup with Soba Noodles
If your soba noodles will be eaten hot, such as in soba soup or kake soba, the next step is to consider the soup base. Common soup flavors include:
- Dashi broth (made from fish and seaweed)
- Miso broth (made from fermented soybeans)
- Soy sauce broth (made from soy sauce and other seasonings)
- Chicken or beef broth
Once you’ve decided on your soup base, garnish your soba noodles with sliced green onions, tempura bits, kamaboko (fish cake), and/or pieces of nori seaweed.
1. Use Chopsticks
Soba noodles are typically eaten with chopsticks, as they make it easier to pick up the noodles and keep them in your bowl. For beginners, it’s a good idea to practice using chopsticks beforehand.
2. Slurp Your Noodles
Slurping soba noodles is not only acceptable but also encouraged in Japanese cuisine. Not only does slurping create a lively atmosphere, but it also enhances the flavor of the soba.
3. Eat the Soba Noodles First
When eating a soba soup dish, it’s customary to eat the soba noodles first before drinking the soup. This order helps to savor the soba’s unique texture and flavor because it is ultimately the main attraction in the dish.
4. Finish Your Dish
When eating soba, it’s best to finish your dish rather than leaving any leftover soup. The broth can become too salty or unappetizing as it cools. So, it’s best to enjoy the dish in total.
Tips for Eating Soba
1. Use Your Napkin
Soba noodles can be slippery and challenging to transfer to your mouth using chopsticks. Thus, be sure to have a napkin ready to clean your hand when necessary.
2. Blow on Hot Soup
It is customary to blow on hot soup before consuming it to cool it down. By doing so, not only do you ensure you don’t burn your mouth, but it also enhances the soup’s flavor and aroma.
3. Eat it Your Way
While there are traditional ways to eat soba noodles, the beauty of this dish is the creative flexibility to make it your own. Experiment with flavors and textures to find your best way to enjoy soba.
Eating soba is a unique culinary experience that can only be improved upon by following traditional customs and enjoying it your way! Whether you enjoy soba as a salad, soup, or hot dish, follow these tips to eat soba like a pro!
1. Is it bad luck to cut soba noodles?
No, it’s not considered bad luck to cut soba noodles. However, in traditional Japanese soba culture, cutting soba noodles using chopsticks or other utensils is considered taboo.
2. What are the benefits of eating soba noodles?
Soba noodles are a great source of nutrients that can help you meet your daily nutritional needs. They are also gluten-free, which makes them a dietary staple for people who avoid gluten intake.
3. How long does it take to cook soba noodles?
Typically, it takes around 5-6 minutes to cook soba noodles. However, the time may differ depending on the type of soba noodles and the cooking method.
4. How long does cooked soba noodles last in the refrigerator?
Cooked soba noodles can last in the refrigerator for up to three days if stored in an airtight container. They can also be frozen for up to three months.
Food.com. (2021). Japanese Buckwheat Noodles, Soba Recipe. Retrieved from https://www.food.com/recipe/japanese-buckwheat-noodles-soba-159008
Sanukiya USA. (2019). Learn How to Make and Eat Soba. Retrieved from https://www.sanukiyausa.com/post/learn-how-to-make-and-eat-soba
Taste Atlas. (n.d.). Soba Noodle. Retrieved from https://www.tasteatlas.com/soba-noodle