Translated by Hilary Keyes
Soba Noodles: Their Calorie Content, Ingredients And Where To Eat Them
Soba noodles are a food loved in Japan for centuries and one of the representative dishes of the country. Find out more about the many varieties of soba noodle dishes, how to eat them and the best soba restaurants in Japan!
Written by Mayu
How to Eat Soba and its Condiments
There is one sight that is sure to surprise visitors to Japan, and that is the behavior of the Japanese when eating noodles. The Japanese, when eating noodles, tend to noisily slurp them, which is considered poor manners in most other countries. To eat long noodles properly with chopsticks, and to fully enjoy the noodles themselves and their tsuyu and other seasonings - these are the two reasons that the Japanese slurp their noodles.
Without exception, the Japanese think that slurping soba noodles is the best way to eat them. So when eating soba in Japan, why not do as the Japanese do and slurp your own soba noodles?
Soba comes in three main different forms: noodles in hot soup, cold noodles with a tsuyu dipping broth, or cold noodles that you pour the cold soup base on top of. Now let's take a closer look at the different ways of eating these noodles.
How to Eat Hot Soba
Kakesoba, or soba noodles in hot broth, can be topped with green onions, shichimi spices (seven pepper blend) or other seasonings to suit your tastes. Usually when eating ramen, the dish comes with a large flat spoon so that you can scoop up the broth, but with soba, you are not typically given this spoon. In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to drink the broth straight from the bowl. But if you would prefer a spoon, you can also ask the staff for one.
The one caution is that, the noodles will absorb the soup and lose their own unique flavor the longer you leave them, so it is best to eat the soba while it is still hot.
How to Eat Cold Soba
If you order zarusoba, you will receive a plate of cold soba noodles and a small, separate dish with cold tsuyu dipping sauce in it. When eating zarusoba, you should pick up a mouthful size serving of the noodles, dip it in the sauce and then eat it. The strength or saltiness of the tsuyu differs from restaurant to restaurant, so when you first dip your noodles in to it, be careful not to take up too much sauce.
And just like with hot soba, you can add green onions, shichimi, wasabi or other condiments to suit your tastes to the cold tsuyu.
Other than zarusoba, there are also types of cold soba. Many of these types feature soba and other ingredients in a bowl, over which you pour the tsuyu yourself. In this case, you are meant to mix up the noodles and the ingredients with your chopsticks before eating it.
The Condiments in Soba Dishes
The condiments that are used in soba are spices and vegetables, and other food items, that bring out the best of the noodles' flavor. Spices like ichimi pepper, shichimi or seven spice blend, wasabi and green onions are the most commonly used; you can add these seasonings to suit your tastes.
For more details, please refer to: Japanese Encyclopedia: Yakumi ("Condiments").
At some restaurants, once you have finished your soba, you may be served a small teapot-like container of soba-yu, or hot soba water. This is the water that the soba was cooked in, which is full of vitamins B1 and B2. It is also said that soba-yu contains lutin, a type of polyphenol antioxidants, which is good for your health as well. If you are given a pot of soba-yu, please drink some and see what you think.
As soba-yu does not have a distinct flavor of its own, if you have ordered zarusoba or morisoba and have leftover cold tsuyu, then we recommend adding the soba-yu to that then drinking it. It will turn into a nice broth actually.