Healthy food “SOBA”
When people talk about “soba”, many of them usually mention the Japanese-style noodles. Actually, soba is the Japanese name for a crop more commonly known in English as “buckwheat”. Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. Soba usually refers to thin noodles made from grain-like seeds of buckwheat. In the old days, Japanese people preferred to eat soba in a genuinely traditional style. They simply boiled the buckwheat seeds to eat with soft-boiled rice or smashed them into a powder before rolling them in round pieces and boiling in hot water. This latter soba cooking method was known as “soba gaki”. Later, as part of the progress in preparation, soba was made into a thin sheet and sliced into noodle-like shapes, which has since become popular among soba eaters nowadays.
Soba is considered one of the healthiest of Japanese cuisines. It helps boost the appetite, stimulates bowel movements, and prevents one from coming down with a cold. Soba is rich in bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and amino acids. With the supplement of vitamins A, B, and D, beneficial nutrients in soba can help build muscle mass, strengthen immunity, nourish brain cells, and prevent pre-mature aging. Rutin, a type of bioflavonoid found in soba noodles, also provides good protective effects, particularly to fight against infection, viruses, and allergies.
In Japan, soba is a typical Japanese menu that can easily be found in various dining places ranging from inexpensive fast food shops at railway stations to luxurious specialty restaurants. Some local Japanese restaurants are attracting their customers with awesome freshly-made soba and properly seasoned broth. Obviously, as buckwheat flour is gluten-free, it is necessary to use special mixing techniques to ensure that the flour is specially prepared for yummy soba noodles.
Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce or in hot broth as a noodle soup.
To eat chilled soba noodles, it is recommended to boil sliced pieces of soba and drain the sticky stuff out thoroughly. Put the well-prepared soba in the fridge and leave it until it is cold. Chilled soba noodles are often served on a sieve-like bamboo tray with tsuyu garnished with sliced Japanese green onion on top. Several traditional soba restaurants also serve soba-boiled broth mixed with tsuyu to end a perfect soba noodle dish. Some soba lovers prefer to put a little bit of wasabi or shichimi in the tsuyu sauce to get a hotter taste.
Furthermore, the chilled soba noodle dish served on a bamboo tray is known as “mori soba” and is called “zaru soba” when garnished with some seaweed.
Nowadays, soba noodles topped with well mixed ingredients have evolved to substitute soba noodles dipped in tsuyu sauce. This new soba-mixing style is called “hiyakake soba (冷かけそば)”. A special highlight of this revolutionary menu is to eat chilled soba noodles with several cold toppings.
For those who dislike the unfamiliar smell or taste of soba, it is recommended to try soba noodle in hot broth.
With popular types of toppings, people call a soba noodle dish with fried tofu, “kitsune soba”
and the one mixed with tempura, “tempura soba”.
Meanwhile, “tanuki soba” is the name of a soba noodle dish mixed with deep-fried tempura batter.
Alternatively, some soba eaters may prefer to put a fresh egg on top of hot soba dishes, known as “tsukimi soba”, where an egg yolk symbolizes the shape of the full moon and an egg white is described as a cloud drifting around the beautiful yellow moon.
Whether it is served hot or cold, it is very traditional to see Japanese people eating soba noodles with slurping sounds to reflect the genuine deliciousness of their dishes. They believe that making such noises can boost both the fragrance and taste during their enjoyable meal.
In particular, soba, especially “toshikoshi soba (年越しそば)”, is considered an auspicious menu frequently served on December 31. Japanese people strongly believe that the lengthy shape of soba symbolizes their longevity. As soba can be chewed up easily, eating soba is believed to bless eaters with good fortune and luck. As soba is rich in healthy nutrients, it helps nourish both the body and mind and efficiently eliminates poison in the blood.