Monday, January 11, 2010

Soba そば

Soba, those thin buckwheat noodles often seen in Japanese restaurants, are one of the foods you're supposed to eat for the new year in Japan.  They're supposed to represent a long life and considering their health benefits, that might not be far off from the truth!  Soba is basically a fat free food that is also surprisingly high in protein considering it's a noodle.  Soba is also believed to help with high blood pressure due to the bioflavonoid present.

How to Prepare
You can find dried soba noodles at almost any supermarket.  Shiga has some particularly good dried soba made in Ibuki that can be found at most Heiwados.  Fresh soba noodles taste better and can usually be found in the fridge section of the market.  In the States, you should be able to find soba at any Asian market.

If you're feeling really adventurous, make your own soba noodles!  Mix equal parts wheat flour and buckwheat flour in a bowl.  Make a small indentation in your mixed flour and add a small amount of water.  Mix the water in with the flour.  Add enough water until you can make a fairly dry ball of dough.  When you pinch the dough together it should feel like you're pinched your earlobe.  If your dough is too wet or sticky, simple add some more buckwheat flour.

You should knead the dough for a long time.  20 minutes or longer.  You want the dough to fully form its gluten chains and to have no air pockets when you form it into a ball.  When you've think you've kneaded it for long enough, knead it for another 5 minutes to make sure.

Lightly flour your counter with katakuri starch (片栗粉) or potato starch.  Flour your rolling pin with the starch as well and roll out your dough.  You want a large sheet like this:

Next you will fold the dough into third with lots of starch to make sure it doesn't stick:

On a cutting board, cut the dough into thin strips to make the noodles.  Make sure your knife is sharp!

Finally you'll boil the noodles for about two minutes, then immediately wash them in cold water to stop them from cooking further.  Your noodles are done!

Easy Soba Recipe

Here's a non-traditional take on soba noodles, salad style!

Spicy Soba Noodles

Makes 4 servings

Prep Time: About 45 minutes


  • 450 grams chicken breast, skin removed
  • 250 grams soba noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons black vinegar 黒酢
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 6 small shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned 
  • 1 bunch mizuna 水菜, chopped (can substitute arugula)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cooked edamame beans, pods removed

1.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Grill chicken until fully cooked (about 8 minutes each side).  Cut into thin strips and set aside.
2. While chicken is grilling, cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold water to cool, then drain well. Toss noodles with sesame oil in a large bowl.
3.  Stir together vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil, garlic, sugar, and salt in another bowl until sugar is dissolved, then add to noodles and toss until coated.
4.  Add chicken, carrot, mushrooms, bell pepper, mizuna, scallions, and edamame to the bowl of noodles.  Toss together.
5.  Finished!

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