Kazuyo brought back some soba from Japan, three packs for me :-)! I love soba, the Japanese buckwheat noodles that can be eaten cold or hot.
When we were living in Japan my husband did a lot of editorial work for Kodansha International, and among the books he worked on there was this one: The Book of Soba by James Udesky. The book tells you how to make your fresh soba, but also how to cook the dry one, plus it has some recipes, some history and nutritional info. I like it.
This is my soba set: plates with fitting straw mats (zaru soba is served in baskets or on mats, to keep it fresh and drained), plus some matching soba dipping bowls. I also have some tea cups with the same pattern: dragonflies!
Zaru soba is cold soba topped with nori (I cut a sheet of nori in small pieces with a pair of scissor) and served with a simple dipping sauce and garnish. One thing that I learned form The Book of Soba is that soba is not cooked like pasta. The only thing in common with pasta is that you should use the biggest pot you have and have enough water as if you were to cook spaghetti. But don't add salt!
Bring the water to boil: add the soba, stir gently. When the water starts to froth add half a cup of cold water and lower the heat. Do this three times. After the third time your soba should be ready. Drain and collect the cooking water to make soup, if you like (full of starch and vitamins and minerals) and place the soba in a bowl with ice water. Or just rinse under cold water (I prefer this way, the soba may not be perfect but I cannot bear to loose anymore starch!
Place your cold and rinsed soba in a soba basket or on your soba plate (lined with the soba mat). If you don't have a soba mat use your sushi rolling mat. Top with nori. Here I put some daikon salad with ume mayo, and sesame capsicums on the side too, they are not traditional, they were just left overs from my Japanese cooking class, but they paired well with the cold soba.
For the dipping sauce I prepare a base broth by simmering a piece of kombu for 30 minutes in water, then I add a little soy sauce (most would use bonito flakes). Let the broth cool down: this is a cold dipping sauce. Before serving put a tiny bit of wasabi in each dipping bowls, and a little grated daikon or radish, and then some chopped spring onions or chives. Pour the broth over and stir. For a fancy dinner place all the garnishes in small plates and let your guests mix their own sauce. To eat pick up the soba with your chopsticks and dip into your dipping sauce, then slurp everything up. You can make a slurping noise too, but I am not good at that!
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©