From my first visit to Japan I fell in love with Soba noodles. They were my first experience of cold noodles in a dipping sauce and the combination of the sweetness of the sauce with the texture of the noodles was amazing. They also make sense in a warmish climate in Australia as a simple summer dish. On one of my trips I bought a soba bocho (knife for cutting soba noodles) and had a couple of reasonable attempts at making the noodles. These were inspired by a couple of recipes from Nobu that I had in a US visit where the Soba were made with either Jalapeño or Cilantro into the actual soba dough.
In August 2014 my wife and I braved up and attended a full day Soba Making course as part of the Tokyo Cooking School. Our teacher Inouye-san was cheerful and extremely excited to share his knowledge of Soba noodles.
The course started with Inouye-san giving some background into Soba and its preparation followed by demonstrations from him on how to make various soba broth and dipping sauces, preparing different accompaniments for cold and hot Soba and then making both pure soba and soba noodles that incorporate a small amount of wheat flour.
As with anything you try to do yourself without seeing a master do it, there are plenty of tricks involved in preparing Soba noodles. All the recipes I had used were quite simply in weight of flour and volume of water. I almost felt taken back to black and white photo school talking about the impact of relative humidity on the production of noodles – the end result being using the weight of the added liquid against a table of humidity. Far more techie than I was expecting.
The rolling technique was something I was really looking forward to. Of course, Inouye-san’s rolling pin flew around like a crazed ninja; making it look so very simple. Soon after the big “axe” appeared (the soba bocho) and we had a plethora of noodles.
At this time we broke for lunch, tasting the noodles that Inouye-san had prepared. We helped put together the accompaniments and had a delightful lunch of both Soba in hot broth with scallops and cold Soba with dipping sauce. Quite frankly at this stage my wife and I were ready for a nap having felt that we had absorbed Soba noodle culture both mentally and via the stomach, but we were here to learn, it was now our turn.
We both made 80/20 and pure Soba flour noodles over the next couple of hours with constant supervision from the master. The results were quite good with our major flaw being the variable width of our noodles as we tired out. At one stage Inouye-san suggested my last handful might be reserved for use in a fettucini recipe 😉
The rolling was more of a challenge for me, I think I probably need to break both my thumbs to get them into the position required for smooth and constant rolling.
We walked away from this awesome day with great memories, a new friend and about 2 kilos of Soba which kept us going for a couple of weeks. Some were distributed to Japanese friends for their opinion and they were quite impressed. Looking now it seems the school has expanded it’s courses to a wider selection of Japanese food so I can see myself going back for more learnings this year. If you check the site there is a link to a site that sells all sorts of cooking gear around noodle making also.