I never play favorites.
Except when choosing Japanese noodles, and then I always favor soba.
Soba is a brown noodle made from buckwheat flour. I adore the nutty flavor, and its dense texture makes it a hearty addition to any soup. Soba is much sturdier than its thin, curly ramen counterpart, and it is much easier to manage than the thick, round udon noodles.Soba can be served with a variety of toppings. Growing up my mother would leverage its versatility as an excuse to purge the refrigerator and empty out the vegetable bin. There were a few strange combinations (soba topped with broccoli and meatballs?), but it worked. In my own kitchen, I prefer the simple classics: shrimp, pot stickers and green onion. Then pour in the hot broth and start slurping!
4 bundles of dried soba (buckwheat noodles)
*Estimate 1 bundle per person. Sold in 10-bundle and 6-bundle packages.
For the broth:
6 cups water
3 1/2 teaspoons dashi-no-moto (bonito fish stock)
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Some suggested toppings:
Green onion, sliced
Carrot, parboiled and sliced
Egg, fried or scrambled, sliced
Kamaboko (fish cake), sliced
Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
In a pot, combine the broth ingredients and bring to a boil. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add bundles of soba, stirring to keep noodles separate. When water comes to a rapid boil, decrease heat and continue to simmer until noodles are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
Drain noodles in a colander, and rinse well under cold running water.
Divide noodles into four portions and place in the bottom of four large bowls.
Arrange toppings of choice on top of the noodles.
Ladle about 1 ½ cups of hot broth over noodles, serving immediately. Serves 4.
Recipe adapted from Cuisine: The Legacy of the Japanese in Hawaii.
Note: Soba (buckwheat noodles) and mirin (sweet rice wine) can be purchased in most grocery stores, located in the Asian foods aisle. Dashi-no-moto (bonito fish stock) can be purchased in specialty Asian food stores.