The Nagano region of Japan is famous for its soba noodles. The area’s soil has all the necessary nutrients to produce high quality soba noodles or Shinshu Soba. During our culinary tour of Japan, we make a stop at a quaint, soba dojo (school) in the high elevations of Yamanashi. Here we learn the art and craft of handmade soba noodles. While that might sound intimidating, the class is one of the most loved activities of the tour. If you go, you’ll discover, it’s not has hard as it seems.
A Little Soba History
Like boulbase and bbq and other great foods, soba noodles were born in the kitchens of the working class. Under the feudal systems in Japan, farmers grew both rice and soba crops. Much of the rice crop was used to pay taxes, and the soba crop kept for themselves. Like its counterpart Udon, ground buckwheat was simply mixed with water and made into dough then cooked in hot pots, grilled or simply eaten as a porridge. During the Edo period, 1603 and 1868, of Japan, knives became widely available, and people began making noodles from the dough.
Making Soba Noodles
The basic recipe for soba noodles is simply buckwheat flour and water, but that can be difficult to work with. Often the buckwheat flour is mixed with other ingredients to change the flavor, texture and to make the noodles less brittle. At the Soba Dojo, you’ll see your instructor add in a little white flour to make the noodles a little easier to work with. Often mountain potato is added to enhance the flavor and texture of the noodle. This was the style we used at our restaurant for many years. Overall, aroma, texture and taste is what makes a good soba noodle.
I’m just about to start the June, Culinary Guide to Japan tour, and very excited about the trip. While I have a few moments, I wanted to share with you some of the good things happening at TanpopoStudio.
October marks the beginning of the harvest season and this is a great time to visit Japan. Enjoy a fall walk in the Kiso Valley, relax in a hot spring and savor a regional Kaiseki dinner. If you are interested in joining us, you can register online or send me an email. Hope to see you in Japan.
If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming Art and Culture Tour this spring, please join us at Wet Paint Art at the end of month for another meetup (with tea and crackers). We’ll be posting the exact date as soon as possible. If you’re interested in attending, let me know and I will update you. We’ve received some great feedback during our last meeting, and a few spaces have already been reserved. So if you’re interested, don’t miss your chance to see Tokyo, Nagano and Matsumoto. We’ve also added a 3 day optional extension to Kyoto on this tour for those of you who would like to stay longer in Japan.