What better way to bring in the new year, than with family and a piping hot bowl of soba noodle soup? Toshikoshi soba, which translates to simply “year-crossing noodle” is a dish traditionally eaten during New Year’s Eve festivities in Japan. The tradition, which has its roots some 800 years ago, solidified itself across Japanese culture during the Edo period (1603-1868) when burgeoning city life allowed for the establishment of superstitions and religious rituals among Japanese commoners. While the dish itself is fairly simple, toshikoshi soba is full of symbolism.
The long buckwheat noodles that make the centerpiece of Toshikoshi soba are seen to represent a long life, and slurping them slowly is thought to welcome in peace and fulfilment. The buckwheat plant is also very strong and resilient-- it is capable of growing even in poor weather-- so eating it is thought to help cultivate that same strength and resilience for the coming year. Soba noodles also break very easily when bitten, which in turn represents breaking off the old year in order to clear the slate for the new. Toshikoshi soba is either eaten late in the evening before midnight, or immediately after, but never right at midnight, as that would cause an unwanted overlap between the old year and the new.
Toppings for toshikoshi soba vary depending on region and household, but common ones include tempura battered shrimp, wakame seaweed, green onion, kamaboko fish cake and the seven-spice powder shichimi tougarashi. The soup broth is a simple basic dashi, which can be made fresh from scratch or bought premade from the store. In Japan, it is quite common for people to purchase toshikoshi soba from the supermarket or convenience store rather than making it themselves. Soba restaurants in Japan experience the busiest time of their year on New Year’s Eve and often require reservations a few days in advance to secure seating. While you may be hard pressed to find a dedicated soba restaurant for toshikoshi soba in the U.S. the dish is fairly easy to make at home.
Use the following recipe to make your own toshikoshi soba this New Year’s Eve:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Makes two servings
1qt water for boiling
2 bundles of J-Basket Japanese Buckwheat Noodles
3 cups water for broth
½ cup Kikkoman Hon Tsuyu Shiro Dashi
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 pieces of Kibun Kamaboko Aka, sliced about ¼ inch thick
2 tbsp dried wakame seaweed
Shichimi tougarashi, to taste
First, prepare the broth. Combine 3 cups of water in a medium sized saucepan with ½ cup of Kikkoman Hon Tsuyu Shiro Dashi. Then, bring the mixture to a simmer and set it aside.
Reconstitute the wakame seaweed by adding a small amount of hot water. Once the seaweed has plumped up, squeeze out excess water and set aside.
To prepare the noodles, bring 1 qt water to a rolling boil. Then, add 2 bundles of noodles. Allow the noodles to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the noodles are slightly al dente, drain and rinse with cold water to remove the starch.
Separate the noodles into two bowls, and pour the hot broth over top. Add kamaboko, scallion, wakame seaweed, and shichimi tougarashi as desired.
Serve immediately and enjoy!