Soba noodles are noodles made of buckwheat flour. These nationwide popular noodles are enjoyed in various hot and cold dishes. The most basic soba dish is mori soba in which boiled, cold soba noodles are eaten with tsuyu, a soy-based dipping sauce. As buckwheat flour alone tends to be brittle, most soba noodles contain wheat flour. The percentage of buckwheat flour ranges between 40% and 100%. The higher the buckwheat flour concentration, the more healthy it is considered, since the gluten-free buckwheat has a lot more nutritional value compared to white rice or wheat flour. They also contain fewer calories than whole-wheat flour and have barely a trace of fat. The fiber and protein keep the blood sugar balanced and sustain the sense of satiety for a long period of time, helping Japanese people to stay slim.
While many soba dishes are eaten throughout the year, others are only available seasonally. One of those special dishes is the Toshikoshi Soba that has become the traditional evening meal to have while waiting to greet the new year.
There are several theories behind the origins of Toshikoshi Soba.
The buckwheat plant is a highly resilient plant that bounces back even after being flattened by stormy weather. Thus, soba has come to signify strength and resiliency. Moreover, the thin and long shape of the noodles stand for the Japanese idealized lifestyle in the Edo period following Confucian thinking: a long and peaceful, uneventful life.
In addition, the soft texture of soba noodles compared to the solid udon noodles represent a clear cutting off and ending of the old year and all of its problems.
According to some historians, Toshikoshi Soba became a New Year’s Eve custom as fine soba flour was once used by goldsmiths to gather up leftover gold dust and thus became associated with wealth and good fortune.
Every household has its own recipe for this. We would like to introduce to you the following:
1.5L bonito or kombu kelp dashi stock
200ml soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
300ml tsuyu (optional)
200g soba buckwheat noodles
100g spring onions
20g tempura flakes
150g kamaboko fish cake (optional)
How To Prepare
1. In a large pan, make your dashi stock. Next, add the mirin and simmer gently for a few minutes. Now add the sugar and let it dissolve before adding the soy sauce. This makes the soup for your soba noodles.
2. In separate pan bring 1l of water to the boil. Add the soba, stir them slightly to make sure they’re all spread out around the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 8 minutes. Cooking times may vary depending on your noodles, so check the instructions on the packet.
3. Drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water, gently rubbing the noodles to remove any excess starch on the surface. Next, thinly slice the spring onions and any other garnishes.
4. Gently re-heat the stock and pour into bowls, then add the noodles and garnish with your spring onions and tempura flakes.