Summers in Japan can be as oppressively hot and humid as summers in Miami. So it’s no wonder that one of the most popular noodle dishes is a cold one, known as zaru soba. Cold Soba is a refreshing, nourishing meal when it feels almost too hot to even eat, let alone cook. The ingredient list for Cold Soba is blissfully short; the dish is a shining example of Japanese simplicity. Chilled noodles, a simple umami rich dipping sauce, a little garnish-Cold Soba is about to be your summer go-to.
Cold Soba Dipping Sauce
The dipping sauce is tangy and savory from soy sauce and mirin, and dashi powder adds a hit of umami flavor. This is a typical sauce/broth in the Japanese repertoire and by varying the amounts of soy, mirin, and dashi, you can make many Japanese dishes. It comes together quickly too! Just three ingredients, a quick stir, and a jolt of heat to burn off a little bit of the alcoholic flavor and you’re done.
Then take it off the heat and let cool to room temperature. You can also make this ahead and leave it in the fridge until ready to use. The sauce stores well and will be good for a week.
Cold Soba Garnishes
Since this is a simple dish, I like to serve it with a couple quick garnishes. Shichimi pepper and minced scallion are traditional and give this subtle dish a boost. The Japanese pepper blend is more flavorful than spicy as it often includes some sesame seeds, a little orange zest, sometimes a little nori, along with several types of chili peppers. It’s actually a blend of 7 ingredients as “shichi” means seven in Japanese.
I always rinse scallions and onions when eating them raw. It tames some of the oniony flavor so it doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Plus, Japanese dishes often use a lot of raw onions and scallion, where it’s almost like a vegetable rather than a garnish, so the process of rinsing is essential in these recipes.
Although grated ginger is not usually served, I like it and my husband always asks for ginger when I serve zaru soba. I feel that the cooling, peppery bite perfectly enhances the cold noodles.
Soba Noodles are made with buckwheat. Buckwheat is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals which helps with weight loss, lowers cholesterol, and prevents blood clots. Moreover, it’s full of resistant fiber and tannins (like those found in tea) which lowers the growth of viral and bacterial infections while promoting vital strains of flora in your gut. Love a healthy gut!
Plus, it also happens to be gluten-free because it is actually a seed and not a grain. However, packaged dry buckwheat which you can easily find in Asian grocery stores and also many regular grocery stores, is typically made with wheat flour as well. That is because buckwheat dough by itself is crumbly and does not hold together well as long chewy strands. The gluten in the wheat gives it the toothsome mouthfeel and structure, while buckwheat provides the robust flavor and hearty texture. So if gluten-free is important to you, make sure to read the ingredients on the package, as very few sobas are 100% buckwheat.
Buckwheat has a nice nutty quality but is chock full of nutrients, so rejoice pasta lovers, as bowlfuls of noodles are now back on the table! And in typical Japanese form, this classic noodle dish is not loaded down with all kinds of caloric additions, making it delicious but not indulgent.
Soba noodles cook quickly, and are usually done between 5-7 minutes. The technique for boiling them is a little different from what you may know. While the noodles boil, we make couple additions of cool water. This method allows the noodles to relax and hydrate properly achieving the excellent chewiness that all Japanese people love.
While the noodles come up to the first boil, I fill a cup with cool water. And just when the boiling water threatens to boil over in the pan, I pour in the cool water. Then I repeat that process. By the time I’ve done it twice, the soba noodles are almost done.
Draining and rinsing are also important. You should gently massage the noodles while you are rinsing them. This process removes excess starch from the outside of the noodle, which gives them a bouncy texture and less stickiness between the strands. I like to use some ice cubes to quickly get the noodles chilled.
Finally, pile all your chilled noodles on a platter, and serve alongside the sauce and garnishes. Everyone at the table can customize their own dipping sauce by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Serve Soba Noodles with Szechuan Cucumbers and Thai Boba Tea for a perfect hot day meal! And when you do, kindly take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe below-we love hearing from you! And don’t forget to tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen.
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- ½ Tablespoon dashi powder
- 6 bundles soba noodles (600 grams)
- 4 scallions
- 4 tablespoons grated ginger
- Shichimi pepper
- Combine the water, soy sauce, mirin, and dashi powder in a small sauce pan and stir to combine. Heat the sauce over medium high heat for a couple of minutes until it starts to simmer. Simmer for one minute and take the sauce off the heat.
- Cool to room temperature before using.
- Trim the scallions and slice very thinly. Put the scallions in a colander and rinse under running water. Drain for a couple of minutes and then put in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve noodles.
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat and add the noodles. Using a pair of chopsticks or tongs, stir the noodles to separate them and keep them from sticking. Lower the heat to medium high.
- Fill a pitcher with 2 cups of water and keep it by the stove. As soon as the water in the pot almost starts to boil over, add the cool water and again stir the noodles. Refill the 2 cups of water and when the water comes to a boil and again is about to boil over, add the cool water.
- Soba noodles cook quickly. Once you have added water twice, which will take about 5 minutes, the noodles will almost be done. Check one noodle by breaking it apart. The noodle should not have a core and be softer than al dente since it will be served cold.
- Once the noodles are cooked, drain them in a colander in the sink. Rinse them under running water, gently massaging them to eliminate excess starch.
- You can also chill the noodles with ice water or add some ice cubes to the noodles when serving.
- Serve the noodles mounded on a plate with the garnishes and sauce on the side.
Keywords: noodles, buckwheat, soba, zaru soba, japanese food, cold noodles