Kitchen Confidence

How to Cook Soba Noodles

By • May 7, 2014 • 6 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Your soba noodle package has been holding out on you.

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

If you’ve ever eagerly anticipated sneaking a bite from a bowl of perfectly-dressed soba noodles, and instead were left staring at a glob of tangled noodles at the end of your chopsticks, we feel your pain. And we’re here to make sure that never happens again.

The secret? You need to wash your noodles. Really. For some reason, most packages of soba noodles don’t tell you this -- but now you’re in on the secret, and no longer need to battle soba that's stuck together and gluey. While you run to your pantry to incredulously look at what's not there on the package, make sure your noodles are made from all (or mostly) buckwheat flour; if they aren’t, buy different ones the next time you’re at the store.

Here's how to cook them -- properly.

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

Get a big pot of water boiling -- and despite our prior yammering, don’t salt the water. Once it's boiling, add the soba noodles, and give them a quick stir to make sure they all go under water.

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

Let the water return to a boil, then reduce the heat a little, to keep the water at a simmer. Let the noodles cook for the time prescribed on your noodle package, probably between 5 and 8 minutes -- set that kitchen timer! Meanwhile, ready your colander in the sink, and prepare a big bowl of cold water. (Not an ice bath, though: You want it cold, but not so cold you can’t comfortably stick your hands in.)

More: Cooking with other types of noodles? Here are 3 ways to cook pasta.  

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

Pull out one noodle from the pot to check for doneness. Soba should not be al dente, it should be fully cooked -- but not cooked for so long that it is mushy. When the noodles are done, drain them into the waiting colander, and then promptly dump them into the bowl of cold water. 

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

Now wash your soba noodles. Stick your hands in the cold water, grab handfuls of noodles, and rub. Fairly aggressively. In a noodle-loving way. You're washing off the excess starch, and thus preventing a gummy pile of noodles.

How to Cook Soba Noodles, from Food52

Drain again in the colander, let them sit for a minute to let additional water drip off, and then proceed with your recipe. You can use them cold -- try them dressed in a cold noodle salad or bundled into little nests for dipping into sauce -- or you can warm them back up. Just give them a quick dunk in hot water or add to a soup right before serving.

We consider the one-bowl wash to be the happy medium of soba noodle prep. In Japanese Farm Food, Nancy Singleton Hachisu shares that her Japanese husband uses two bowls of cold water for a double-dip. On the other hand, when pressed for time, we’ve been known to just wash the noodles in the colander (after draining them) with lots of cold water running over them. Both methods are less likely to impress Mother Earth, so stick with the middle ground.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use soba noodles?

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (6)

Tags: kitchen confidence, how-to & DIY, soba noodles, soba, japanese, japanese food

Comments (6)

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5 months ago kgw

A great sauce for cold soba, from Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin & Tsuifeng Lin:
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 tsp red pepper oil
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbs vinegar
4 level tsp sugar
1 ½ level tsp salt
½ level tsp white or black pepper
½ level tsp crushed wild pepper (I substitute roasted, crushed Szechuan pepper here)
4 tsb peanut (or other high-heat oil)
Mix all but the oil in a 4-cup Pyrex measure, and then heat the oil to almost smoking. Pour in a stream over the ingredients in the Pyrex cup, and stir. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, and then pour over the cold noodles. Xlnt!

Sara_clevering

5 months ago sarabclever

I had no idea! This is like making homemade lasagna, which Marcella Hazan says you must wash like fine linens to remove excess starch.

Smallme

5 months ago Kate

Hm, interesting about the rinsing. My dad is Japanese, and neither he nor my grandmother has ever washed soba after cooking. Generally the way we go is to just cook them according to the time on the package, being very vigilant as soba can go from springy and toothsome to mushy in a matter of a minute. The way my family has always done it is to keep a colander filled with about five ice cubes at the ready, with a large pot in the sink below it. Pour the soba into the colander, catching the soba water (sobayu) for mixing with your dipping tsuyu for a broth at the end of the meal. Remove the pot and run cold water over the soba through the colander for about twenty seconds, giving the noodles a little shake with your fingers so the ice cubes distribute. Remove and drain. I suppose this last step is kind of like rinsing, but I always thought of it as shocking (to stop the soba from continuing to cook, like you'd do if you want soft-boiled eggs). If you handle the soba too much it will get gummy.

Smallme

5 months ago Kate

The more I think about it, the more I think it was rinsing that my grandma did all along, but under a running tap with ice, as others have said, not in a separate cold water bath. Again it's the cold to stop the soba from cooking which is really essential, and not tons of washing. Funny how you can learn how to do something and repeat it on autopilot without fully seeing why! That's why I like sites like this. Thanks.

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5 months ago Liz B. @ UMAMI LIFE

This is a great post. Soba is definitely better when washed, but I think you can even skip the "bath" portion here by just shocking the soba with super cold water right out of the pot/aka right after it has been dumped into the colander. Then, you can scrub and rinse with one hand under the running water.

Here's a cold soba bowl I made around easter! http://thatumamilife.files...

http://thatumamilife.wordpress... - a clean eating bento blog. Japanese or Asian-inspired!

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5 months ago Liz B. @ UMAMI LIFE

SO SORRY, THIS IS THE LINK FOR THE SOBA BOWL :( http://thatumamilife.files...