Zaru soba is boiled and chilled soba (buckwheat noodles) served on a bamboo basket (zaru). It's served with noodle dipping sauce (mentsuyu or tsuyu) and some toppings. Light & refreshing, this Zaru Soba will be your summer go-to staple.
The word zaru means “a strainer” in Japanese and the name of the dish was derived from the way the noodles were served over a bamboo strainer during the Edo Period.
A Guide to Soba Noodles
You will find 2 kinds of soba noodles in the Asian grocery store, the primary differences between the varieties are texture and flavors.
- Ju-wari Soba is made of 100% buckwheat flour. It has a dry and rough texture so the noodles are easily broken. Ju-wari soba has a strong buckwheat aroma and flavor. It is hard to make Ju-wari Soba because of its dry and crumbly texture.
- Hachi-wari Soba is made from 80% buckwheat flour and 20% wheat flour. Hachi-wari means 80% in Japanese. The noodle is much smoother and it has an al dente texture. Unlike Ju-wari Soba, it’s easy to cook, swallow and chew. However, it has less of the buckwheat aroma.
It’s hard to say which soba is tastier and more delicious; it really depends on personal preference.
You might also see packages of green or pink soba noodles in Japanese grocery stores.
- Cha Soba – Green Tea Soba is flavored with small amount of green tea powder in the soba to give a subtle green tea taste and green color.
- Ume Soba – Ume Plum Soba is flavored with Japanese ume plum and have a slight pink color.
Serving Zaru Soba
The loveliest and the most authentic way to present soba is on a zaru, the Japanese bamboo tray sold at Japanese markets and craft stores. The trays are inexpensive and elegant to have around.
Place the scallions and wasabi in the center of the table with the noodles. Each diner then mixes a dab of the wasabi and 1 tablespoon of the scallions in a portion of dipping sauce and, using chopsticks, dips noodles into the sauce. If you like, add flavors like grated ginger or orange zest to the dipping sauce.
- 14 oz. dried soba
- For Dipping Sauce:
- 1 1/2 cup kombu and katsuobushi dashi
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- For Toppings:
- Optional: 1 tsp. wasabi paste
- Optional: 1 green onion (finely chopped)
- Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil.
- Stop the heat. Cool the sauce.
- Boil lots of water in a large pot. Add dried soba noodles in the boiling water, gently stirring noodles with chopsticks.
- Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until just tender. Put the noodles in a colander, and rinse under cold running water to remove the starch. If it's necessary, add a little bit of cold water in the pot to prevent overflowing.
- Divide soba among four serving plates or zaru.
- Divide dipping sauce among four small cups. Put toppings on small plates and serve them on the side of soba.