The Japanese have a term for the slurping noise one makes when savoring a noodle dish, it’s called, “tsuru-tsuru.” Making slurping noises is recognized to be a good thing and encouraged in Japanese culture. It’s considered a way to convey your appreciation of the meal to your host. In Japan, noodles symbolize “longevity,” and are eaten quite a bit. In addition, they’re eaten on New Year Eve to symbolize the passing of the old year and beginning of the new year (called toshikoshi).
One of my favorite Japanese noodle dishes is zaru soba (which means “basket” noodle). Zaru soba consists of cold buckwheat noodles served with a mild dipping sauce (tsuyu) and various garnishes (yakumi). It’s a refreshing, classic summer dish that cools you down quickly on a hot day and takes minimal effort to prepare. You can make your own tsuyu (from dashi stock, mirin and soy sauce) but I prefer to keep a bottled of premade tsuyu in my fridge. You can buy the premade tsuyus in concentrated and unconcentrated versions; if you buy the concentrated version, be sure to dilute the base before using it.
1 bottle of chilled soba tsuyu (somen tsuyu works too)
9.5 oz. package of soba noodles
Your choice of condiments:
Thinly sliced green onions
Toasted sesame seeds
Nori ( dried seaweed), cut into matchstick sized strips
Chopped shiso (perilla)
1. Bring a pot of water to boil. (Do not salt the water.)
2. Once water is boiling, place the dry noodles gently into the pot.
3. Stir gently with chopsticks to separate the noodles so that they do not clump and to make sure they are all fully immersed.
4. Bring the water back to a boil then set it to simmer.
5. Check your noodle package for how long to cook your noodles; the time varies according to brand. On average, it’s usually about 4-7 minutes.
6. Test a strand. It should be firm yet tender.
7. Remove the pot from the stove and transfer the noodles to a colander. Drain the hot water.
8. Place the noodles under a steady stream of cold water to stop the cooking process and wash the starch off. (Don’t skip this step, it does have an impact on the taste of the noodles.)
9. Use your fingers to swish around the noodles and wash them well.
10. Drain. Then place a small bundle of noodles on a bamboo mat, tray or flat sieve. I have small, plastic “colander/basket bowls” that I like to use. This allows excess water to drain away.
11. Pour one cup of tsuyu per person for dipping.
12. Place a small amount of noodles in tsuyu, garnish with whichever condiments you prefer and finally…sluuuurp!
13. Repeat until satiated.