Kayleigh here. After our trip to Komatuan in Tokyo, we realized that smothering flavorless gluten free noodles would never be as easy to do again. The buckwheat soba we had there was so wonderfully supple, chewy, and fulfilling that we knew we would have to try making a batch of our own when we got back home. After all, what are the chances that we would find an authentic, 100% buckwheat flour soba restaurant back in Washington (by the way, if you do actually know of one, PLEASE let us know in the comments!)
Before I launch into a recipe, let me say that I am by no means an expert. Soba chefs go through decades of learning just the right consistency for the perfect noodle, the right amount of kneading, resting, and just how thick to cut the noodles to achieve the exact desired tenderness. Creating something so simple that can be appreciated by itself is not something that you can really perfect after 4-5 batches, so take that to heart. We don't claim to be perfect, but we at least were able to make an edible dinner in about an hour's time by the end of our trials!
For our soba, we tried to keep things as faithful as we could, which meant using only buckwheat flour and water to form the dough, and no salt or oil in the pasta water. Serving it immediately, cold, with a small bowl of soy sauce for dipping and slurping is ideal, but serving it hot in a soup or cooked into Yakisoba would also work with this base noodle. We found that keeping them in the fridge for a few days made them quite stiff and dry, so heating them up was the only option for leftovers. They really are best served fresh, but they at least do not seem to stick to each other after being left to sit.
One last note- we used Bouchard Family Farms Buckwheat Flour to form our noodles. After receiving a bag of it from my parents last year, we have been ordering it online straight from the source. It is the finest flour that we have found by far, actually matching the consistency of the standard all-purpose wheat flour. Having said that, using other brands of flour will likely change the ratio of flour to water that you need to use to get the proper consistency. Climate and elevation can affect the dough too, so experiment around a bit and let us know what worked for you!
Soba Noodles Recipe (serves 2)
160 grams Buckwheat Flour
90-95 grams lukewarm Water
1) Using a food scale, measure out the flour and water into a bowl. Stir with a fork (or your hands) until combined. Don't worry if it seems too crumbly at first- just keep working at it.
2) Check the consistency- it should feel soft and pliable, not sticky or wet but not easily crumbled either. You should be able to handle it and shape it without it leaving much residue on your hands. If it is too dry, add water one teaspoon at a time. If it is too wet, add a teaspoon of flour.
3) Once the dough seems good, put it back in the bowl and let it rest for a bit. Take the chance to make a side dish, like roasted vegetables or grilled shrimp. At the very least, let it rest for 15-30 minutes.
4) Take a moment to prep your cooking area. Flour a large cutting board and a rolling pin, and get out whatever kind of knife you feel comfortable cutting long strips with. Then, check the consistency of the rested dough and add flour/water as needed.
5) Put the dough down onto the cutting board, flour both sides liberally, then roll it out very thin with the rolling pin- about the thickness of lasagna noodles. If the dough is floured enough, you should be able to cut it in half and stack it. Then, cut the sheets into 1/8 inch strips- getting them as thin as you can is important.
6) When you are almost finished cutting, put a pot of water on to boil. Also fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes and set aside.
7) Once the water is boiling steadily and the noodles are cut, dump them in and cook for one minute. Pull it off heat immediately afterwards, strain them, then dump the noodles in ice water. Once they have cooled off, enjoy them fresh!
Jason here. I was really excited to try our homemade soba noodles, after experiencing them in Japan. It sounds like a simple process, as there is only two ingredients water and buckwheat flour. I can honestly say, it was difficult to work with. Finding the right consistency is more an art than a science, so I really appreciate the mastery that Japanese Soba chefs have taken their craft. Even after all of our batches, we still didn’t quite get our noodles as thin as we would have liked.
The taste however, was practically spot on. The noodles have a similar accent taste to buckwheat pancakes. While the pancakes are almost sweet and dessert like, the buckwheat noodle are more pure in nature. I find myself eating about half the bowl completely plain because they taste that good. The other half, I dip just slightly in tamari or gluten free soy sauce.
Buckwheat noodles are a heavy meal to be sure. A small bowl will easily fill you up, so be careful not to give yourself to large of a helping. Cold noodles is not something I really grew up with, so it’s really a whole new experience for me. It makes me wonder if I would like other noodle dishes cold.
Now if I can only find a way to slurp the noodles without flinging gluten free soy sauce all over our table.