View Full Version : Soba Advice
12-17-2000, 06:48 AM
I would like to try my hand at making fresh soba. Has anyone had any success at using a pasta machine to do so? If so, I would appreciate any advice/recipes that you found helpful.
Thanks in advance.
12-22-2000, 09:33 AM
Nope, a pasta machine won't do it. The glutens in buckwheat flour are somewhat different from those in wheat flour. If you try to extrude buckwheat dough, you'll get a flabby, mushy noodle. The dough, once it's rolled out, has to be cut.
There are soba making machines in Japan, but they depend on mechanical knives that cut the dough.
How far along are you in this process? Have you a source for the yabu or sarashina kind of soba? If so, that's quite an accomplishment outside Japan. And are you aware of the importance of sobayu? Sadly, even among Japanese cooks today, too many fail to understand the importance of sobayu, the "used water" in which the noodles have been boiled.
At any rate, use either a long, Chinese-style chopper or a long knife to cut your soba.
12-27-2000, 07:09 AM
Thanks for the input. That pretty much dovetails with what little information I have been able to put together from cookbooks and a piece I caught on television. I tend to try to get as much information from more reputable sources than my television, hence my question here.
My cookbook by Shizuo Tsuji (Kodansha Press) discusses the process pretty clearly but does not mention any of the things that you brought up in your post, namely the importance of sobayu. As far as ingredients, it merely mentions a ratio of buckwheat flour to wheat flour.
Could you expound on the topic a little further, or perhaps offer suggestions of reliable sources which I could research? Your experiences both in Japanese culture and as a food critic make you a perfect source of such information.
Thank you again for your response.
12-29-2000, 03:22 PM
I’m no authority on anything and soba-making is not really a specialty of mine. I can tell you this:
The flour, obviously, is vital. There are a couple of kinds. Yabu is a rough-ground buckwheat, with a lot of the husk in it. Sarashina is made from the grain only, without any of the husk; more expensive, though I’ve no idea where you’d get either one in this country. Maybe some other readers know. Might try some health food stores.
You have to combine wheat and buckwheat flours to make soba. The latter hasn’t any glutens; you need to former to make it stick. There are all sorts of “okuden” about which proportions to use; I think most of them are about 3/7, with the wheat flour the smaller number.
I’ve also been told you need to use very hot, nearly boiling water during the first part of the mixing stage, since this helps bind the proteins of the buckwheat. Other cooks have other “secrets,” again, to assist in this process. Mixing in a pulp of sweet potato, an egg, or the starch from gobo, or burdock root.
There are a lot of axioms about how long to mix and then knead the dough. You’re supposed to watch for a “bloom” and all sorts of other signs to let you know it’s ready. If you really want to learn this, you’d almost have to go to Kyoto or some of the good sobaya elsewhere in Japan, unless you’re lucky enough to have some expatriate from there who knows what he/she’s doing in the kitchen.
Sobayu is the hot water in which soba’s been cooked. Apparently the cooking releases amino acids and other stuff. Supposed to be good for you and the really high-class soba places always combine some of the sobayu in the broth if a broth is part of the dish. Even if it isn’t, you’ll get a little saucer of a broth with some of the water in it, for dipping. Nowadays, a lot of cooks don’t even know what it is, but you go to the old sobaya in Kyoto and Nara and they’ll all know what you’re talking about.
That’s an idea. Why don’t you just hop the next flight over. Go to Kyoto. Go along Fuyacho-dori, right near the centre of town, to Kawamichi-ya. THE place in Kyoto for soba. Place will be packed this new year’s, as always, with all the customers eating toshi-koshi soba, the "good luck” soba eaten on the last day of the year. Those guys could teach you to make soba. (If you go, bring me back some boro, the little round cookies made of buckwheat flour, they have there.)
Or, go to the Karasuma-Oike neighbourhood, near Nijo-dori. Hardly any tourists go there; lots of great old shops. There’s a restaurant there, over 500 years old, Honke Owari-ya, that’s on Karasuma-dori, an old, two-storey place, with tables wedged in all these oddly-shaped rooms. They serve wanko soba there. Wanko soba would be a big hit in this country. It’s a kind of all-you-can-eat buffet. They bring small bowls (wanko) of soba, along with about a dozen different toppings, pickles, ikura, tidbits of tempura, mushrooms; and they keep replenishing the soba and the toppings as long as you keep eating. Wonderful.
01-04-2001, 01:32 PM
First, please just call me Paul. The high school students that I teach call me Mr. Mathews, at least most of them do when they know I'm listening. I hate to be formal when talking about one of my favorite topics, food.
The buckwheat that I have is from Hodson Mills (I think that's the name of the brand). I'm pretty sure that is stone ground and therefore probably closer to yabu in texture, but I am only guessing. It was readily available on my grocer's (Albertson's) shelf. I had hoped to make the soba last week but I came down with a case of strept throat, courtesy of my two year old daughter, and had very little interest in food for a couple of days. When I do, I will follow the recipe in the cookbook I mentioned in my prior post. I'll be sure to post my impressions of my relative success/failure shortly thereafter.
The use of sobayu in the noodle broth conjures up a memory of a lady of Italian descent I saw on cooking show. She used the water left over from boiling pasta to add to another dish as it cooked, thus aiding in thickening the sauce. I would imagine that aside from any "curative" value that has been associated with sobayu, the judicious addition of it to the broth might help the broth adhere to the noodles.
As for catching a flight over to avail myself of cooking lessons, that shall have to await a more indulgent budget. Besides, I have no doubt I would hurt myself on the Wanko Soba. There is a reason I avoid all you can eat buffets (other than the usual concerns over questionable quality).
Thanks for your input. Again, I'll let you know how it turns out. Maybe this weekend?!?
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