Japanese soba, a type of noodle made using buckwheat flour, is also well known for being healthy. Because it is a famous food in Japan, it is only expected that there are many different kinds of soba available all over the country. Here are nine of the most popular variants of soba in Japan that are unique and rich in individuality!
1. Wanko Soba
Wanko soba is from the Hanamaki and Morioka areas in Iwate. How many bowls of soba do you think you can eat?! Wanko soba is a unique local dish that gets people in a competitive spirit over how many bowls they can down.
When you eat wanko soba, the basic rule is that the server will toss in bite-sized soba into your bowl while chanting “Hai, dokkoi. Janjan.” (OK, heave-ho! One more serving.”) Then you eat the serving with various condiments such as sesame seeds and spring onions. Note that there are people who have actually eaten more than 100 bowls of this soba! So, have as many servings of wanko soba as you want, and when you are already full, all you have to do is close the lid of your bowl to tell the servers that you are done eating. Putting back the lid on your bowl will signal the servers to stop putting more soba.
Wanko soba is a dish that is served filled with the desire for customers to eat freshly boiled, delicious soba to their heart’s content. Go ahead, take the challenge and eat one bowl of soba after another while enjoying the dialogue with the servers!
2. Hegi Soba
Hegi soba from the Uonuma area in Niigata consists of bite-sized servings of cold soba noodles are beautifully laid out on a wooden rectangular dish called “hegi,” so you can enjoy the noodles’ distinctive chewy texture.
You may be wondering how the noodles get their unique chewiness. Well, it’s because the seaweed called “funori” is used as a sort of bond for the noodles. The Uonuma region is known for producing high-class textiles, and “funori” was the bond applied by weavers on the fibers, whose wefts they would tightly stretch using pins in order to strengthen them and give them a beautiful finish. Once you’ve tried this particular soba, you will surely get addicted to its bouncy and chewy texture! You must try it at least once.
3. Togakushi Soba
Togakushi soba is a famous local specialty of Nagano, a prefecture with the highest number of soba shops in all of Japan thanks to its thriving industry of buckwheat cultivation. This particular soba is characterized by its use of a time-honored traditional method of making soba that not many soba artisans use in te modern area, as well as its unique serving style dubbed “botchi-mori.” When noodles are served in botchi-mori fashion, it means that the noodles are divided into five to six mouthfuls, and then arranged on top of a draining basket. Togakushi soba has a beautiful presentation and appearance, so it has been transformed into an exquisite food that is offered to the deities and nobles.
4. Sarashina Soba
Sarashina soba is another Nagano specialty that's defined by its white color that comes from the use of only the core of buckwheat, without the pellicle of the buckwheat fruit that has color. It is characterized by its elegant aroma, delicate sweetness, and smooth texture.
5. Toji Soba
Toji soba, also a famous soba from Nagano, is eaten by putting a small serving of noodles in a basket and then soaking the basket in a pot filled with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms to boil it quickly before eating. It originated when people were looking for a way to eat soba hot during cold seasons.
6. Dattan Soba
Dattan soba from Nagano has a pleasant bitter taste. It is also famous as a health food given its high nutritional value thanks to having rutin, a kind of polyphenol, at a level that is more than 100 times the amount contained in ordinary soba noodles.
7. Izumo Soba
Izumo soba from the Izumo region of Shimane is known for its blackish color that is achieved by grinding the buckwheat with husk to bring out its rich aroma, taste, and distinctive texture.
There are two major ways to eat Izumo soba. The first way is called “warigo soba,”wherein spring onions and other condiments are placed on top of cold soba inside a stack of containers, and then tsuyu sauce is poured over the noodles. After finishing the noodles in the top layer, you have to pour the leftover sauce into the next layer and then add more condiments and tsuyu, if you want. Repeat the process onto the next layer until the noodles in the last container are consumed.
The other way to eat Izumo soba is “kamaage soba.” With this serving style, boiled soba noodles are put in a bowl and a thick “soba-yu” (soup that contains the nutrients of buckwheat that have dissolved in the water due to boiling) is poured into the bowl, and then you eat the bowl of noodles by adding your preferred amount of tsuyu and condiments.
8. Cha Soba
Cha soba is a local specialty that was born in Uji, a place in Kyoto that is famous for green tea. It is made with buckwheat powder, together with flour, a dash of salt, and Uji matcha.
When you put this soba that has a beautiful green tea color in your mouth, you will surely appreciate its rich matcha aroma and fine taste after its excellent feel in your throat. This soba is not only found in Uji, as there are many shops that serve this all over Kyoto. Make sure to try it in between your trips to different sightseeing spots in Kyoto!
9. Kawara Soba
Kawara soba is a local gourmet dish of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi. Kawara soba is made by putting Kyoto’s cha soba on a hot kawara (roof tile) and then adding meat, egg, spring onions, lemon. and other ingredients on top. The noodles that directly touch the kawara will be crispy with a delicious aroma, and you can dip the noodles into the tsuyu. Kawara soba is said to have originated from the hot spring town of Kawatana Onsen, so it would be a great idea to eat this particular kind of soba after soaking in the bath.
The different kinds of soba introduced here can be found at various soba shops in the areas where they are associated with or originate. So, how about immersing yourself in the appeal of delicious and health soba on your trip?
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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