Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.


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Staying Cool with Zaru Soba

It’s June and the weather is getting hotter in Japan!  When I feel sick from eating too much soft cream and kakigouri, I turn to a wonderfully simple dish called zaru soba. This has become my ultimate Japanese summer food.  Zaru is the word for the bamboo mat on which the noodles are served, and soba is a kind of noodle made from buckwheat.  It’s more nutritious and contains less gluten (usually none at all) than refined noodles, and is absolutely delicious when served cold with a bowl of mentsuyu (a soy-based dipping sauce).

Tempura zaru set I had the other day

Tempura zaru set I had the other day

It’s cheap, light and perfect for when it’s hot and you don’t wanna spend ages cooking something, or you fancy a change from salad.  I’m pretty sure you can make this easily if you don’t live in Japan.  Most supermarkets stock soba noodles and you can probably buy the ingredients for the sauce if you can’t find it pre-bottled.  Wasabi is essential; other than sushi, this is my favourite thing to eat wasabi with.  I can’t believe I used to hate it!

Mentsuyu (noodle sauce) recipe:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake (apparently dry sherry makes a good substitute)

Handful of bonito flakes (probably won’t hurt if you miss them out)

Put all ingredients in a pot, let them boil then remove from heat.  Cool completely in the pot.  Strain bonito flakes.

Zaru soba:

  • Boil soba noodles according to instructions.  Make sure you rinse them in cold water to get rid of the sliminess, then chill them for a bit.
  • Put the mentsuyu in a small bowl.  Mix some wasabi and chopped raw spring onions into the sauce.
  • Rinse the noodles again and sprinkle with nori (seaweed) if you can get it, or sesame seeds.
  • Holding the bowl of mentsuyu, dip your noodles into the sauce with your chopsticks and slurp them up loudly.  Oishii!