Travel tips for food

Vol.2 Japanese Soba

Konnichiwa! It’s foodots.
This time, we would like to introduce how to enjoy Soba noodles in Japan.
Soba is one of the traditional Japanese noodles made with buckwheat flour.
It has an interesting history and ways to eat. Let’s go to Soba’s journey with us today.

 Introduction: ZARUSOBA originated from an idea during summer 
Firstly, there are many types of noodles for soba in Japan. Especially “Juwari-soba” and “Nihachi-soba” are the most popular. Both names are from how much used ingredients.

・JU-WARI-SOBA:Ju=10, wari=ratio

It’s made with 100% buckwheat flour
Taste: Feeling original buckwheat flour flavor on your tongue.
It has traditional taste of soba and it is available to bite very easily because it’s not used any binder.

・NI-HACHI-SOBA:Ni=2, hachi=8

It’s made with 20% wheat flour and 80% buckwheat flour.
Taste: Standard taste of soba.
It is very smooth to slurp like ramen because of using wheat flour as a binder for making noodles.

*Depending on restaurants, they have own traditional styles and use different amount of flour.

Soba is one of the representative Japanese food so you can enjoy it in all parts of Japan. Especially, Yamagata and Nagano prefecture, to name a few. The reasons are from water and districts.
They have clear water for growing buckwheat. Water is very important for growing the best one. These areas are located in cold districts. Today it is available to grow high-quality rice and wheat in cold areas because of breeding improvement, however, it was harder to grow them in cold areas than other warmer areas a long time ago. On the other hand, it takes just about 70days for growing buckwheat. It was also fit to grow it in the areas and stave off hunger for a long time ago. That’s why soba has been developed in Yamagata and Nagano prefecture.

・Yamagata: Located in the Northern area which is called “Tohoku district”. Knows as cherry, yoneszawa beef, mountain, hot spring, etc…
・Nagano: Located in Central part which is called “Chubu district”. Known as snow sport, hot spring, apple, wasabi, etc…

According to Japanese history, the culture of eating soba has existed since quite a long time ago.
400 years ago(Edo period in Japan), people have been eating boiled soba which is the current style. Up until this point, steam soba has been eaten which called “Mori-soba” and “Seiro-soba”

Steam Seiro-Soba

Have you ever heard “Zaru-soba”? It is a similar type with Mori-soba and Seiro-soba.
In fact, the difference between them are plates for decollating and whether seaweed is on it. Tate is mostly same.

A couple of hundred years ago, Soba was on a bowl, plate, or steaming basket.
One day, Soba restaurant 「伊勢谷-Iseya-」has started to use bamboo basket because it made people feel cooler during hot summer. Then, this style has been spreading around Japan.
Also, it has no any seaweed on Mori-soba and Seiro-soba but Zaru-soba has.

Cool Zaru-Soba

How to decide a restaurant: At the station and traditional restaurant

The biggest thing is the choice of place to eat soba in Japan.
Originally, soba was for ordinary people like fast food for workers. For example, in Japan, you see some people who are eating soba with standing style at the platform when you go to the station. It’s called “Tachigui-soba” which means stand-up-eating soba. It’s typically for busy people like office workers. They eat soba while they are waiting for a train at the platform. At the “Tachigui-soba” store, soba is in a soup to cut time to dip noodle. It’s also good for staff because they don’t have to wash extra plates by using a bowl for a set-meal.
You can try soba at family restaurants, however, eating at a traditional restaurant worth trying
Some good restaurants serve hand-made and stone-ground soba. It helps you when you choose a restaurant.

Incidentally, the soba restaurant GEN「玄」located in Nara prefecture, west Japan is the most famous Kabuki performer’s favorite restaurant. His name is Ebizo Ichikawa. He likes the original flavor of soba and some options to enjoy soba taste. There are small plates of water, salt, plum, and a bowl of soup for dipping noodles.

Recommendation by Ebizo Ichikawa                 Instagram @l0mopipi030

The unique options: Special light meal and beverage

At the restaurant specializes in soba, there is a menu before eating soba. It’s called “soba-mae” which means “before-soba” and you can have tempura, grilled egg, fishcake with wasabi. Usually, people enjoy them with Japanese sake. The menu is different depends on stores so please check before visiting stores if you have something prefer.

 Now, it’s time to order soba.
Choose “Mori-soba” which is steam one or “Zaru-soba” which is also steam but it’s on a bamboo basket and comes with seaweed.
The difference between stores is the serving size of noodles. Stores in the central city tend to have a smaller size and local areas ones have a bigger size of noodles.

If you love eating and you are hungry, it is available to order a big size or ask to refill at most restaurants.

・When you would like to order a big size…
“Omori-de-onegaishimasu.” 「大盛りでお願いします」
・When you would like to refill…
“Ichimai-tsuika-onegaishimasu” 「1枚、追加お願いします。」

Soba in Yamagata

After ordering, soba is coming to you now!
There are supposed to be a soba plate, a soup which made broth from bonito, a small plate with green onion and wasabi.
A small plate is an option for enjoying soba but there is a reason.
Several years ago (Edo period), wasabi has been used for taking away the smell of fish for making soup tastier. Today, soba soup has no fish smell but still, people enjoy soba with wasabi. Even today, traces of the Edo period remain.

Soba soup is not for pouring

JAPANESE “IKI” way of eating: Feel the original flavor for the first

If you have an image of eating soba without noise as manners, you might be surprised at this way of eating.
Traditional style called “IKI” (粋) is slurping with noise like when you eat other noodles such as ramen. Japanese people call “Zuru-zuru” as the sound of slurping noodles. In Japan, there are many onomatopoeic words.

Meaning of IKI(粋):Cool, stylish, smart, well-cultivated tastes, traditional style, chic etc…


Soba is eaten by chopsticks. If you would like to know how to use chopsticks properly, please check this out:
1. Enjoy soba noodles without anything to feel the original flavor for the first.
2. Dip noodles to soup and slurp. It’s a standard style.
*Not pouring soup on noodles.
3. Put green onion or wasabi on noodles a little bit and dip them to the soup.
*There is no order which is first. Mixing green onions and wasabi in the soup is ok but putting on noodles is a more traditional way.

When Japanese people eat soba, they slurp noodles. Usually, they don’t bite. Slurping with little noise is the IKI way of eating soba.

After eating noodles, there is one more option. The staff brings hot water which used for boiling soba noodles. It’s called “Soba-yu”. Pour it into the soup then you can drink for calming your stomach down after eating. If a staff won’t bring it, you can ask say “Soba-yu kudasai”「そば湯ください」

Also, you see “soba-tea” which called “soba-cha” depending on restaurants. It’s non-caffeine and non-calorie. Soba-cha has dietary fiber and rutin so it’s good for health too.

Soba tea time

After the experience of standard soba, it would be nice to try other types of soba like curry soba, vegetable soba, new-year soba. There are many new styles in Japan. Enjoy!

Would you be interested intraditonal Japanese meals?
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 Recommended restaurants in Tokyo by Foodots.  

When you would like to try a light traditional meal before eating soba called “Sobamae”
・KANDA MATSUYA (神田まつや) : Kanda, Tokyo
Light Japanese meal with Japanese sake, Many kinds of soba, A long restaurant line

When you would like to traditional Juwari-soba
・SOBA OSAME(蕎麦おさめ) : Nishiazabu, Tokyo
Juwari-soba, Traditional kind of buckwheat, Many repeaters

When you would like to handmade soba and light meal wine
・TEUCHISOBA DAIAN(手打そば大庵) : Shinjuku, Tokyo
Counter seats & semi-private room, Handmade soba, Japanese sake&wine

Hope we can be of any help to you. Thank you very much!

KANDA MATSUYA (神田まつや) : Kanda, Tokyo

SOBA OSAME(蕎麦おさめ) : Nishiazabu, Tokyo

TEUCHISOBA DAIAN(手打そば大庵) : Shinjuku, Tokyo