Soba are a thin Japanese noodle made with buckwheat. They usually contain a small amount of wheat flour as well. They can be served hot, usually in soup....
And soba is perhaps even more popular served chilled....
"Zaru soba" are chilled soba noodles served with "tsuyu"; a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, mirin and dashi stock. The noodles are swirled in the sauce before being slurped up by the diner. Green onion, wasabi, nori or other garnishes may be added to the tsuyu if desired. And yes, slurping is strongly encouraged! It's said to improve the flavour and to show the Chef that you are enjoying the fruits of his labour....
Soba noodles are usually bought dry, but fresh handcut noodles are found in Japan.
Is your soba looking a little green? It's probably been flavoured with green tea.
Sushi rolls can be made using soba instead of rice. Soba sprouts also find their way into salads and even as a topping for vegetarian nigiri sushi. Buckwheat is high in fibre, antioxidants, magnesium and other nutrients.
Most buckwheat is grown in Hokkaido in the north of Japan. It grows fairly quickly and can be harvested a few times a year. Bees like the flowers and a strong dark honey can also be produced.
Shochu is a spirit sometimes refered to as Japanese "vodka". It can be made from barley, rice, sweet potato or buckwheat.
Soba can be found in restaurants, train station cafes and at food stalls all across Japan. Owariya soba restaurant in Kyoto has been serving soba and other buckwheat treats for over 500 years! The Japanese Royal Family have been regular customers for several generations.
More on all your Japanese favourite foods soon!