Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Making Fresh Soba Noodles

I am Japanese – I was born and grew up in Tokyo. That means I love soba (buckwheat noodles) and I have all my life. Soba is a truly unique Japanese noodle. It is served cold with dipping sauce in the hot/steamy summer, or in a warm broth with a flavorful variety of garnishes in winter.

There are a few Japanese restaurants serving soba in the San Francisco Bay Area, but none has ever satisfied my palate like the soba that I grew up with. Perhaps because soba here (in restaurants and stores) is the dried product imported from Japan.

I met Minami-san the first time about 5 years ago. I had gotten a call from a good friend who told me that one of his sailing boat crew loved soba and knew how to make Teuchi soba (hand-crafted soba) AND he was going to show us soba making and let us taste his craft. I was so excited. It was a great time watching the soba making and then tasting it. His soba had a perfect firm texture, and the taste was what you can only get from freshly-made hand-crafted noodles.

Minami-san is truly into soba making. He works for an IT company for a living, but soba  is his passion. He not only has all the traditional tools (purchased in Japan), but has everything authentic, from the head scarf to the apron, just like a professional soba maker.

I recently asked him to teach me soba making and he generously accepted my request for a private lesson. On Labor Day I visited his home in the heart of Silicon Valley. It was a hot day – perfect for tasting cold soba. I was again impressed with his perfected technique and fast movements... just like a professional soba maker with many years of experience. It was a joy to watch and learn his craft. I’ve been a chef for many years and can make pretty good Italian-style pasta, but I am now a bit hesitant to make my own soba noodles. It is truly hard, artisan work!

This photo is Zaru Soba, I made it next days at my home, served with cold dipping sauce (made from dried seafood, mirin and soy sauce), finely sliced scallion, sesame seed, wasabi and Shichimi (seven taste) chili pepper as condiments.

Traditional Japanese flour sifter

Zaru soba is typically served with shrimp and vegetable tempura.
Minami-san's Oku-san (wife) made very tasty tempura.

Minami-san is a great sailor, too. He is my new hero!

Click the site below for Soba Making PowerPoint slide show:


  1. Awsome! I wish I could taste Minami-san's soba. This truly needs skill even with the right tools!

  2. Thanks Tom, We can try making soba together when you come to Bay Area next time.
    I saw Dried soba made in Australia in Whole Foods Market you mentioned to me.
    I did not buy it, but I thought it's interesting, Soba from Australa.......
    Have you tried green tea soba? It is good. You may find it in Japanese grocery store in LA.
    I would like to try making Goma soba (white sesame seed), Yuzu soba (Japanese lemon flavor) next time.

  3. I love zaru soba - especially on a warm summer day! What a treat to see your step-by-step photos to make these flavourful noodles! I've never ventured into making them myself, but love learning about the process - it's such an art!