Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese noodle with an interesting history. The area of Edo (now modern Tokyo) during the Tokugawa period of 1603-1867 was inhabited by the wealthy class who preferred to eat white rice over less refined whole grain rice. The result was an increase in the disease beri beri caused by a deficiency of thiamine in the diet. It was discovered that eating noodles made from buckwheat (soba) could prevent the disease by providing thiamine from the whole buckwheat grain.
The relationship between good health and whole grains was spoken of in terms of specific nutrient content hundreds of years ago. Yet in modern America we are challenged to get even half of our grains in their most whole, unprocessed form (“make half of your grains whole grains” is the current USDA nutritional guideline).
In addition to being a whole and healthy food, soba noodles have a wonderful flavor and texture. They are thin and springy. Fun
fact: “udon” noodles are pretty much the same as soba, just thicker! I recommend visiting your local Asian grocery to get the soba noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms, miso, and kombu. You will certainly pay a premium in a regular chain grocery store for these items! You can save money and support your local Asian grocery if there is one nearby. (Be sure to check labels for MSG, added sweeteners, etc).
Soba Noodle Soup
Note: It is important not to boil the miso to keep the cultures alive in the fermented bean paste. Also, the kombu may be removed before serving and discarded or eaten.
4 Small bunches dry soba noodles
3 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Large bunch spring onions, chopped (roots and all). Set green parts aside from white parts & roots
3 Dried shiitake mushrooms
(1) 2×2 inch piece of dry dashi kombu seaweed (optional)
2 Teaspoons mellow white miso (fresh, not powdered)
1 Teaspoon nama shoyu (aged unpasteurized soy sauce) or soy sauce
1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
Half of a sheet of toasted nori, torn into small pieces for sprinkling
Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 10 minutes or so while you prep the other ingredients. Then rinse the mushrooms, remove the stems, and slice thinly.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and return to a boil. Cook 5 minutes, drain and return noodles to the warm pot. Cover to keep noodles from drying out.
In another large pot on medium high heat cook the carrots and white parts & roots of spring onions in 1 cup of water. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes, until carrots are softened. Add the kombu, shiitake mushrooms, and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes more. Add a little of the broth to a small bowl with the fresh miso and mix until the miso paste is dissolved.
Remove the broth from heat and add the dissolved miso, green parts of spring onions, and the soba noodles (option: keep the noodles separate until served in a large bowl). To serve, ladle some soba noodles, broth, and veggies into a bowl, add a few dashes of the nama shoyu and sprinkle with some crushed red pepper and nori.