(Disclaimer: We started this blog to record our many food-ventures. I am sure we are doing certain things the wrong way. Anything we do on the blog, you can try at home ( at your own risk). We are not claiming to be experts. Please follow proper health and safety practices when preparing food. Enjoy. -Arthur)

We have been doing food projects for a long time now and have been recording it along the way. Our memory cards and smart phones are full. We are finally offloading it all and putting it online.

Since we moved to New York five years ago we have been inspired by many things food related. Lately, our access to fresh organic food, like minded folks and great restaurants has been off the chart. Often times we feel as though we have dove head first into food valley. Our ever expanding waistline is proof of our insatiable appetite for food and our interest in how it is made.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


From wikipedia:

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. 

It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. In Japan, buckwheat is produced mainly in Hokkaido. Soba that is made with newly harvested buckwheat is called "shin-soba". It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba. 

In Japan, soba noodles are served in a variety of settings: they are a popular inexpensive fast food at railway stations throughout Japan, but are also served by expensive specialty restaurants. Markets sell dried noodles[ and men-tsuyu, or instant noodle broth, to make home preparation easy. Some establishments, especially cheaper and more casual ones, may serve both soba and udon as they are often served in a similar manner.

We were lucky to be invited over for SOBA!  We made udon a number of years ago, which was a similar experience but soba is made with buckwheat flour instead of tapioca.  It was explained that if you are an expert soba chef you would make a 100% buckwheat mix (Juwari soba -100% buckwheat).  This is difficult to prepare.  Often semi-professional soba chefs make 80/20 (Ni-Hachi soba- 80% buckwheat and 20% flour)  if you are a beginner you should maybe do a 50/50 mix to start.  Use 40% mineral water (hence the digital scale in the photo).  So 60% flour(s) and 40% water by weight.  Add the water slowly.  It should go from flour, to crumbles, to dough.  You do not want it to be a wet dough but the dough ball should suck up all of the powered flour in the bowl.  Think thick dense pizza dough. 

Satoru's mother gifted a five pound bag of Buckwheat flour from Satoru's prefecture (which happens to be famous for their soba).  He also has a large noodle knife (Soba Kiri or sometimes it is called a Menkiri bocho) that was bestowed onto him as a child.  These two items are not crucial but added to authenticity of the evening.  I also might add that he actually sanded and re-finished his table for the sole purpose of rolling our soba! 

When we arrived Satoru was in full regalia.  He had his apron and headband on and was ready to go.  After carefully measuring out the flour(s) and then slowing adding water, the dough was kneaded into a ball.  After which, using long rolling pins (the longest being around three feet!), he rolled out the dough.  This was a little tricky because you need a huge table and it really takes some skill to roll it out square.  

After the dough was rolled out the large square was folded and cut using the noodle knife. Make sure to flour between the fold and the cutting board. The only reference I have for soba is the crappy dried kind from the store so it was very hard for me to gauge the thickness that it is supposed to be rolled and then cut.  I guess this cutting technique comes from years of eating soba?  I imagine to a certain degree it might be personal preference but for cooking purposes it probably shouldn't be that thick.  Satoru's knife is specially beveled to cut and push the dough for quick cutting.  He admitted that he should be a lot faster at cutting but he doesn't make soba everyday.  I also imagine that switching from cutting an Udon noodle to Soba noodle must take a lot of concentration. Also, it is a huge knife! Watch those fingers! 

While the noodles were being made Atsuko prepared vegetables for tempura.  There was squash blossom flowers, eggplant, onion and burdock.  The burdock was boiled in the the soup base and then fried.  All delicious. She also grated diakon, chopped chives, cut seaweed strips, shredded ginger and prepared the broth (tsuyu). While we were waiting we snacked on pickled garlic scapes and cucumber strips with miso mayo. 

Doing some research the style soba we were eating is called Mori soba (cold soba served on a bamboo basket/tray)  Adding all of the accoutrements would be called Hiyashi soba.  We added the "toppings"  to the cold tsuyu which was pre-poured into individual large mugs.  The noodles were served cold, family style on a large bamboo platter with a tray underneath (to strain away any water left and to help the noodles cool).  You grab noodles from the center platter, dip them into the broth and them slurp them up.  In the summer soba is normally served cold but in the winter hot. The slurping enhances the flavor and helps cool the hot soba.  

When you are close to being full you will most likely have a small amount of broth left in your mug.  Traditionally you would add some of the water that you boiled your noodles in to the mug and then drink it.  This is called Soba-Yu.  

It is hard to beat fresh noodles made from scratch.  I slept very well last night with a full belly.