While noodles are often associated with cheap ramens for students, we have discovered a wide variety of them in Japan. They come in three kinds: ramen of course, but also soba and udon. On top of that, each type of noodle can come hot or cold, with or without broth, and with different toppings.
While driving through the Iya valley in Shikoku, we stop by a red-roofed house with a yellow curtain hanging over the door to discover homemade soba noodles. The decor doesn’t look like much, but from our tatami mat, we could see the elderly couple preparing the sobas in the kitchen from buckwheat flour and the water from the mountain stream running behind the shop. A few minutes later, the cook who turned into the waitress walks towards us with two steaming bowls of soba noodles: brown and thicker than ramens but thinner than udons, they come in a light hot broth with some vegetables and topped with ginger.
On another occasion, in Fukuoka, we tasted them cold, served on a bamboo screen in a large bowl with a cold broth mixed with wasabi and spring onions on the side. Different versions were proposed: topped with vegetables, shrimps, a soft boiled egg and honey mustard sauce, or tempura (fried vegetables and prawns), or meat, or fried tofu,… The technique is simple: you dip the sobas in the broth and have the side you ordered with it. Delicious!
It is hard to not slurp while enjoying them: no worries, the louder your slurp, the bigger the compliment for the cook! And the easier for passers-by to recognize the noodle shop!
Claire & Marcella
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