JAPAN: Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば
Here’s what we learned about Japan in our research this week:
- Buckwheat noodles (soba) are traditionally eaten in Japan at midnight on New Year’s eve. According to wikipedia, “the tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life.”
- A recent study revealed that approximately 50% of Japanese citizens eat toshikoshi soba on New Year’s eve.
- While buckwheat is gluten free, many soba noodles are made with both buckwheat and regular wheat. Check the packages carefully to find 100% buckwheat noodles if you eat gluten-free.
Here is a fun video showing you how easy toshikoshi soba is to make and how fun it is to say.
Remember back when Beckett chose Nsusu and Fufu because he could run around yelling those two words at the top of his lungs? Anyone want to guess why we made toshikoshi soba this week?
That only went on for 20 minutes or so. No idea why schnitzel was part of his chant. Anyway, our first attempt at toshikoshi soba was a complete flop and rendered utterly inedible due to the insane amounts of salt. Luckily, we had also made sushi and, since Dungeness crab season just started, a cucumber crab salad, so we didn’t go hungry. Plus, our friends arrived with fun Japanese sodas that had the kids so entranced, they barely noticed the food at all.Refusing to accept defeat, I retooled the recipe and nailed it this morning. The fun part of toshikoshi is that you can add whatever floats your boat to the soup. The first night (pictured here) included some leftover pork loin we had in the fridge, enoki mushrooms, and fish cakes. This morning, we used shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and eggs (pictured at the bottom of this post). The most important part of this soup is the broth and the noodles – the rest is just fun creation. If you have kids who aren’t so sure about trying new “ethnic” foods, a nice way to introduce them to Japanese food might be to make toshikoshi and allow them to put in whatever toppings they would like (like taco night only with Japanese soup!).
Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば
- 8 cups water
- 1 oz sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons HonDashi bonito soup stock granules *
- 1/2 cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1 tablespoon sugar (more to taste)
- 200g package soba 100% buckwheat noodles
- 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, optional
- 2 eggs, soft boiled, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, optional
- 4 green onions, sliced thin
- 1 package Enoki mushrooms, ends trimmed and separated, optional
- 6 ounce log fish cake, sliced into thin half moons, optional **
- Cooked pork loin slices, optional
- Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese pepper spice)
- In a large soup pot, bring water, shiitake mushrooms, and HonDashi to a boil. Add tamari, mirin, and sugar. Reduce heat to simmer and cover.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook until al dente – approximately 8 minutes. Drain noodles and rinse well under cold water to remove any excess starch.
- While noodles cook, prepare all garnishes.
- Prepare bowls by adding noodles and garnishes to bowls.
- Add spinach to broth and cook until wilted. Gently ladle spinach and broth onto noodles and garnishes. Serve with Shichimi Mogarashi if you like things spicy.
* HonDashi is a flavor additive that contains fish and msg among other things and gives a very rich umami flavor. You can make your own dashi if you prefer or you can substitute the dashi with salt.
** Many types of Japanese fish cakes contain gluten. Be sure to read the packages carefully.