SOBA NOODLES READY TO TAKE ON RAMEN
In New York City, Ramen reigns supreme, consumed by the bowlful by late-night food seekers and culinary enthusiasts alike. Soba has somehow become the outsider, the other noodle, beloved by those in the know, but far from ubiquitous despite numerous attempts by restaurants to promote its deliciousness and nutritional benefits. But if Soba master Shuichi Kotani finally has his way, this situation will change very soon.
Master Kotani is virtually synonymous with Soba. While pursuing a career in architectural design in Tokyo, he worked in a Soba restaurant to support himself. A mere three years later, he began his first soba consulting business. In 2007, he made the move to the U.S. to help open Soba Totto, and subsequently founded both the Japanese Culinary Academy of America and the All Japan Food Association. Today, his company, Worldwide-Soba, is a leading consultant for home cooks, professional chefs, restaurants, and even doctors seeking to explore the numerous advantages of Soba.
Buckwheat does offer incredible health benefits. As a source of vitamins B1, B2, E, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and much more, it singlehandedly battled Japan’s beriberi epidemic in the late-19th Century.
Kotani also offers Soba making classes, and generously gave me a lesson. All you need are 4 parts finely milled buckwheat flour, 1 part AP wheat flour, and cold water. As you add the water to the flour mixture, you use the tips of your fingers to rapidly mix and incorporate the water until you amass a bowlful of uniformly chunky bits of dough. You then knead the dough into a ball before rolling it out with a perfectly straight rolling pin. Finally, a special Soba Kiri knife is used to cut the dough into thin noodles.
My first time was surprisingly not a disaster. While my inexperience resulted in slightly thicker cut noodles, the flavor of the Buckwheat was nutty and delicious. And when you begin to think about how greasy and fatty a bowl of Ramen is, there is an extra bit of satisfaction knowing that your body is probably thanking you in some way for the extra protein, vitamins and minerals. With the summer months approaching, I’m certainly sold.
—– Reported by Nobi Nakanishi
Ni-hachi (2/8) Soba is 20% wheat flour and 80% buckwheat. This is the most popular blend – easy to mix and packed with flavor and nutrition.
Master Kotani schools me on Soba making. I got to do the finger painting stuff, and he Mr. Miyagi’d the dough with one hand.