Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat, a cereal grain that, despite its name, is not related to wheat making it gluten-free. This pseudo-cereal is mainly grown in the northern hemisphere, in countries such as Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. It is considered to be a superfood due to the enormous health benefits it presents.
In Japan, there are four main types of noodles and soba is one of them. As for their appearance, soba noodles are long and thin, similar to spaghetti. There are a large variety of soba noodles, however, the traditional one is prepared solely with water and buckwheat flour and in Japan, it is called Juwari soba. Moreover, soba can be eaten in a variety of ways, accompanied by a hot in a soup or cold with a dipping sauce, turning it into an extremely versatile food.
In spite of this versatility, are soba noodles good or bad for you? How to eat soba noodles? Follow this article to discover the answers to these questions.
How to Eat Soba
Eating soba is one of the traditional ways to experience Japanese food culture. The bright side is that there are many ways of eating soba and you can choose the one that most goes with your taste.
Before jumping to show you the ways to eat soba, a few things are worth mentioning, firstly contrary to what you might think, some noodles dishes such as yakisoba or chukasoba are not made from buckwheat flour, thus they are not soba noodles. Secondly, some soba dishes are only available in certain seasons of the year, for instance, Toshikoshi soba is only served on New Year’s Eve, the tradition states that it is a symbol of longevity.
Regarding how to eat soba, there are two forms of eating it, depending on how it is served. If soba is served hot in a broth, you will need to use the chopsticks to grab the noodles while making a slurping sound, note that in Japanese culture making sounds while eating is not rude, contrary to some other cultures. As to the broth, it can be drunk directly from the bowl. On the other hand, if you choose to eat cold soba, it will probably be served with a dipping sauce, in this case, you can simply grab some strands of soba and dip them into the sauce.
Types of Soba
In terms of types of soba, the dishes can be served chilled with a dipping sauce or hot in a broth. Below, you will a comprehensive list of the most common soba dishes:
- Tsukimi soba: it is served hot and its distinctive characteristic is the egg on top.
- Kake soba: it is served hot in a clear broth.
- Sansai soba: it is served hot. Sansei refers to a mix of vegetables and mushrooms. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this is the soba for you.
- Nanban soba: it is served hot in a broth made with duck or chicken meat and leeks.
- Kitsune soba: it can be served hot or cold, it is traditional to the Kanto region. Its distinctive characteristic is the piece of aburaage (fried tofu slices) on top. It is also a great option for vegans and vegetarians.
- Tanuki soba: it can be served hot or cold. It is served in a dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce with crumbled tempura batter.
- Tempura soba: it can be served hot or cold. Also, it comes with tempura serving either on top or on the side of the noodles.
- Tororo Soba: it can be served hot or cold. It is topped with nagaimo yams and often complemented with raw eggs and sliced scallions.
- Mori or Zaru soba: it is served cold and so it is often consumed during the summer and it is accompanied by tsuyu dipping.
Soba Noodle Benefits
To recap, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which is not the same as regular wheat flour. On the contrary, buckwheat flour possesses far more health benefits than its counterpart. Here are some, so you can have an idea about how superior buckwheat flour is to the regular white flour:
High in fiber
Fiber is a key ingredient to maintain intestinal health. Furthermore, it helps with weight and early satiety management. Buckwheat flour is a great source of fiber.
In general, flours are not a very good source of proteins, on one hand, the protein amount tends to be lower and on the other hand, it usually lacks all of the essential amino acids. However, buckwheat flour has a higher protein content compared to white flour. Additionally, it is gluten-free, which turns it into a perfect option for those who suffer from gluten intolerance.
Vitamins and minerals
Buckwheat flour possesses a great amount of several micronutrients including magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium which helps to maintain the health of the immune system, bone and teeth structure, and some hormone functions.
How to Make Soba
You can either make soba from scratch using buckwheat flour or cook packaged soba noodles, the former one is a little tricky though. The thing is that if you use only buckwheat flour, the dough will tend to break while you work with it. In this case, chefs recommend using boiling water in order to gelatinize and help hold the dough together. If you choose to cook using dried packaged soba noodles, just follow the instructions on the package as each brand tends to have its own.
Soba is a traditional Japanese noodle. In order to make it, just two ingredients are necessary, water and buckwheat flour; this is the reason why this noodle is so unique. Buckwheat flour differs in a number of ways from its famous counterpart, white wheat flour. Besides being gluten-free, it provides a variety of health benefits; this includes helping to maintain normal intestinal activity and having a lower glycemic index, which helps the diabetic population.
Regarding how to eat soba, it can be consumed in a variety of ways; hot or cold, in a broth or with a dipping sauce, with different toppings… Each way makes this dish even more unique.