After writing about Chef Kotani’s soba making, I became hungry. So I will make soba for my lunch today using ready-made dried noodles. There are three important tips for making good soba noodles. First is that, unlike pasta, you do not need to add any salt to the cooking water. The second is that after cooking the noodles no matter how you serve them – hot or cold – you must rinse the noodles under cold running water to remove starch that coats the surface of noodles during cooking. When you serve the noodles in a hot noodle broth, you should warm them quickly in new boiling water. Because of this second cooking, you should cook the noodles the first time to a quite al dente state. The third is that you should not discard the soba cooking water, but enjoy consuming it as the base for a cup of soup following consuming cold noodles.
We call the cooking liquid “soba-yu“, which literally means soba water. When you order a cold soba dish at soba restaurant in Japan it is a custom that as the staff notices you finishing your noodles they will bring you a pot of soba-yu when you are ready for it. (In this country you may ask for it.) It is traditionally served in a square-shaped lacquer ware wooden pot with a spout. After finishing your cold noodles, you find left over noodle dipping sauce in the sauce cup that was served with your cold noodles. Pour out most of the sauce from the cup, leaving about 1 teaspoon (5cc). Fill the cup with soba-yu, if you like, sprinkle in some shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder), stir it up gently with chopsticks and enjoy it. Discarding most of the leftover sauce is a good idea, since it is quite high in sodium. The soba-yu contains several excellent nutrients beneficial to health, including water soluble chemicals such as rutin (an antioxidant) and B vitamins.