When it comes to cooling summer food, Japanese cuisine has a whole lot to offer. One of the simplest, and tastiest, cooling summer dishes is one called zaru soba. Zaru soba is a noodle dish that is eaten chilled, either on its own, or accompanied by deep-fried tempura. It is most often served over a special type of plate with a bamboo strainer, called zaru, hence its name. Soba noodles are slightly different as well, either being made completely, or mostly with buckwheat flour. This means the noodles are slightly stiffer and more coarse in texture than ones made purely from wheat flour. However, the presence of buckwheat gives the noodles a distinct but pleasant fragrance.
While zaru soba is a zip to prepare, there are a couple of traditions that surround its consumption. One of those is the use of the zaru plate, which helps to keep the cooled noodles from getting soggy. The other is the use of properly prepared dipping sauce, called soba tsuyu. Soba tsuyu can be purchased, ready to use in bottles, or prepared from scratch rather simply. The key is that soba tsuyu needs to be chilled and presented in an appropriately sized cup. Any cup that is large enough to handle a chopstick full of noodles can suffice, but specifically made and sized soba dipping cups are popular throughout Japan. When zaru soba is served, each person is outfitted with their own plate of noodles, and personal dipping cup. Condiments, such as sliced scallion, grated daikon, wasabi, or karashi mustard can be added to the dipping sauce if desired. To eat, simply dip the noodles in the sauce for a short time (you don’t want them to become soggy), and enjoy.
To make your own zaru soba at home, check out the following recipe, borrowed from our friends over at Just One Cookbook.
14 oz dried soba noodles. Soba noodles often come in pre-divided serving-sized bundles, so four bundles will do perfectly.
1 part mentsuyu/soba tsuyu
1 large bowl of ice water