Introduction to Japanese Food – Soba

Japanese Soba Noodles

There are so many Japanese foods out there with strange and bizarre names that it makes one a little intimidated to try them out. For that reason we’ve decided to dispel some of the mystery by occasionally highlighting one of Japan’s more famous, but sometimes unknown, cuisines.

Today we look at one of my favorites – Soba.

What is Soba?

Soba is a type of Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. Although it’s thiner than say fettuccini, it’s not as small as the typical ramen noodle that you sometime associate with Asian cooking.

How is it served?

In Japan, soba is traditionally served either cold or in a hot soup broth. And strangely enough, it fully permitted and even encouraged to slurp your noodles as loud as you can.

Ice cold soba is usually served in summer, but you can usually find either style served all year long. A big bowl of hot soba soup topped with your meat or vegetable of choice is a meal unto itself. So unlike a bowl of soup that you order before your meal here in the West, a bowl or plate of soba is usually enough for a complete meal.

Making soba is often a skill handed down through the generations and has many regional specialties. I’ve even visited restaurants that have had their soba broth cooking for several years. They just continually top it off and keep it cooking.

Different Types of Soba Dishes

There are plenty of different types of soba dishes to choose from. The base is usually similar but different ingredients are added to the top.

Cold Soba

Mori Soba

Mori soba - served chilled on a basket or plate.

Zaru Soba

Zaru soba - served chilled on a bamboo basket (zaru) topped with shredded seaweed. Also includes a dipping sauce

Hiyashi chuka soba- A Japanese summertime favorite-a cold noodle dish topped with cold meat and/or vegetables.

Hot Soba

Tsukimi soba - topped with a raw egg that will cook in the hot broth.

Sansai Soba

Sansai soba - served with various wild vegetables.

Kake Soba

Kake soba - Soba in broth topped with thinly sliced scallion, and perhaps a slice of kamaboko (fish cake).

Nameko Soba

Nameko soba - Topped with nameko mushroom.

There are plenty more styles of soba than just the few we’ve listed. Several areas of Japan will specialize in their own soba noodle dish. If you’re in Okinawa be sure to try their Soki soba, which is topped with stewed pork. Or if you’re in Izumo, try their Warigo unhulled buckweat noodles which apparently gives the soba a very deep flavor and chewy texture.

How to Cook Soba

Here’s a quick lesson in cooking Kakiage Soba (a mixture of chopped scallops and cubed vegetables fried with tempura), by Stacey’s favorite cook – Francis the dog.

Photo credits: Two Bowls by – nettsu, Mori soba by – Fuyuhiko, Sansai soba by – adactio, Kake soba by – nori_taka, Nameko soba by – bastish.

4 Responses to “Introduction to Japanese Food – Soba”

  1. stacey  on February 8th, 2010

    hehe love francis.

  2. Jedrek  on February 12th, 2010

    I really liked that article. It will help me with cooking my own Soba. Thanks!

  3. Shani  on February 24th, 2010

    This makes me very hungry!!! Mmmm Soba!

  4. kinapun  on July 2nd, 2012

    good and nice show cooking…i need more showmanship cooking and recipe…becouse i realy like japanese food…Thanks you.

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