Successful Soba Noodles

soba noodles close-up


The third time is the charm! Cooking Japanese with noodles I made myself is an accomplishment after my two previous failures. This time I used a finer ground buckwheat flour, bread flour, and vital wheat gluten. I know that I’ll never be a soba master—100% buckwheat, hand rolled and cut noodles—require more than I’m able to do! But the dough was lively and resilient. The smell as I worked was pleasant and nutty. Even with only 1:1 ratio of buckwheat to wheat, the noodles had a nice flavor of earthy buckwheat. Serve these noodles hot with broth, or cold or with dipping sauce.

soba noodles close-up

Homemade Soba Noodles
Source: Linda Burum; Asian Pasta, A cooks guide to the noodles, wrapers and pasta creations of the East (a recipe found online)
Yield: 3-4 Servings
(Uses Processor And Pasta Machine)

soba dough ingredientsIngredients

  • 1 1/4 c buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 c bread flour
  • 1/3 c gluten flour
  • 1 1/4 ts salt
  • about 2/3 to 3/4 cup water
  • flour for rolling out the dough

Instructions
buckwheat flour soba Combine the flours and salt in a food processor; process to blend well. Sprinkle water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the floor and process. Watch the texture closely at about 7 tablespoons. The dough changes from flour, to fine sand, to cornmeal. Pick up a portion of dough in your hands and see if it will form a cohesive mass. If not, sprinkle on a little more water, blend it in, and try again. Be mixing soba doughcareful and work slowly: the dough can suddenly turn to gluey batter!! Looking at my pictures, I think the dough could have used 1 more tablespoon of water.

The original recipe says to process the dough for 1 1/2 minutes, but I prefer to knead pasta and bread doughs by hand. Or by foot! This dough was quite stiff, so I found a buckwheat flour sobagallon ziplock and put the ball of dough inside. Flatten the dough, place it on a towel on the floor, and stand on it. Turn by degrees, moving your feet and making the circle of dough bigger and bigger. Remove the dough from the bag and turn the edges of the circle to the center. Put the dough back into the bag, and dance on the dough again. After a few repeats, the dough will be very stiff. soba doughPut the wrapped dough in the refrigerator to rest for at least 3 hours. I left mine overnight. This rest allows the proteins that give the dough elasticity to relax. It also allows the water to fully permeate the buckwheat flour.

I’d put the dough into the fridge in sort of a ball shape, so the next morning I flattened it with the noodle dance. Cut soba doughthe flattened circle in half. I think next time I’ll cut it into thirds, because I have a hand cranked pasta machine and shorter lengths are easier to work with. Remember to keep the dough covered. With wheat pasta a damp cloth works well, but with the buckwheat, I think plastic works better.

I put each piece of dough into the heavy plastic bag and soba dough kneadedshaped them into approximate rectangular shapes. I rolled them through the pasta machine on the widest setting, then through the next thinner setting. Because the dough was stiff again, and I noticed a bit of whiteness indicating the gluten was breaking rather than stretching. I wrapped the dough up and let it rest again while I made a batch of dashi.

rolling soba doughAn hour or so later, the dough felt soft and pliable again. I rolled the dough through setting 1-2-3 on the pasta roller machine. The original recipe indicates that you might flour the sheets, but my dough was a tad dry, so it was not necessary. Fold the sheets in half or thirds and repeat the settings of 1-2-3 twice more to develop the gluten. Then roll the dough to the proper thinness. You want to cut the noodles the cutting soba noodlessame thickness as width.

My 30 year old non-name-brand pasta machine is not the same as current models, but what you are aiming for is to roll the dough to the thickness of the fine-cutting blades. On my machine, it is half-way between #5 and #6.

Flour the noodle sheets and cut. The cut noodles are fragile, but you want to give them a dusting of flour so they don’t stick together. Shake off excess flour and let the noodles dry for 20 minutes to 1 hour in a single layer on racks, paper towels, or cotton towels.

soba noodlesCook the soba in rapidly boiling water 45 seconds to 1 minute, or until they lose their floury taste.
Note from the original recipe: This is a traditional recipe that is converted for use with a food processor and a pasta machine. Though you can make these noodles by hand, it is not easy to cut them into the thin, 1/6-inch strands without a machine, and this recipe works beautifully. These soba may be used in any recipe calling for soba or udon or may be wrapped well in foil and frozen. I think letting the noodles dry on racks would work better than freezing. But obviously, I’m no expert.
soba with tsukejiruboiling soba noodles

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Tsukejiru: Cold Noodle Dipping Sauce Yakitori: Miso-Marinated Chicken Skewers
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9 thoughts on “Successful Soba Noodles

  1. Congrads Tess!!! What a nice job. The soba looks beautiful. Thanks for the descriptive details. I always wondered why people step on the dough with their feet instead of kneading it by hand. It’s too stiff, it’s easier.

  2. Those noodles look fantastic! I’ve never made soba and (imagine the vast majority of Japanese haven’t either) and think it’s amazing you got it down in just 3 tries. To me you’re definitely a soba master!

  3. lance,
    Thanks! It’s not only easier, but it’s fun!

    Amy,
    After doing this, I’m now even more impressed when I see videos of real masters mixing,rolling, and cutting the soba all by hand! If you like noodles, try making pizzoccheri–Italian buckwheat noodles. Much easier to work with.

  4. I actually admire you – more than you can know!! I just read through the whole process – and then onto the other articles – what a great blog, what a super find for me!

    I wont miss anything now.

    • Hi Tess,

      Like justfoodnow’s comment ~ I feel the exact same way ~ Amazing!!! job you are doing on this site. Why not branch out into tv land~ I think you are more capable (especially with the details!) than most chefs on tv1

      If you like dumplings like I do, you have to check out Brian Yarvin’s book: A World of
      Dumplings” He literally is like you ~ included all the details for success with all sorts of dumplings from around the world. Altho you did a better job with the pleating than he did I think!

      You should be so proud of all the help you are offering to all of us !

      9 bows to your parents,

      Emily

      • Hi Emily,

        Thank you for your kind words. I’m really happy to hear that you find my blog useful.

        I will take a look at the book you suggested. I’m almost thinking I “borrowed” a copy from my sister. But I can’t find it now… (oops!)

        As for the tv land, I love this YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/cookingwithdog
        I guess I could do a “cooking with cat” series…

  5. Jacoba,
    Thanks for the lovely comment. Your blog is very interesting as well. I’ve got to update my links to include so many new people. One of these days, when I have time…
    Tess

  6. Hi Tess,

    Those look really good. I am quite impressed because I’ve tried making soba noodles myself with mixed success. I actually bought buckwheat and ground it myself into powder and tried to sift it to take out the bigger chunks … the best batch I made was with an egg … but that’s kind of cheating, isn’t it?

    I appreciate your notes about cutting the noodles. Next time I’m going to dust them with flour one more time before cutting and I’m also going to dry them.

    Thanks! I’ll look at your other recipes too..

    Ryan

    • Ryan,

      These noodles were difficult to make. I certainly understand “mixed success” because I tried more than once to make these, then have not made them since.

      Congratulations on your success! The egg is no more a “cheat” than me using wheat gluten.

      The difficulty of making soba noodles enhances the mystique of their popularity in Japan.

      Most of the other recipes on my blog, mostly from Hiroko Shimbo’s book, are much easier and turn out successfully everytime. Please note that this noodle recipe is not in her book—her recipes are very do=able and reliable.

      tess

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