Noodles are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and learning how to make them helps you appreciate the work that goes into even simple dishes…
Noodles are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and learning how to make them yourself is not just satisfying but also helps you appreciate the work that goes into even simple dishes. In Matsumoto, they’re very proud of their soba noodles, made from the buckwheat that thrives in the surrounding Shinshu region. There’s even a soba festival every autumn. They’re earthier and nuttier than wheat noodles, and taste especially delicious when your handmade batch is cooked for you by the chef of a 130-year-old restaurant in traditional local style.
When you start out with all the ingredients, it’s hard to see how they’ll turn into beautifully thin noodles. For a long time in the process, there’s just a big messy pancake on the table. But gradually everything comes together and, as it does, you’ll begin to understand the way the food culture in Japan involves very precise steps and rituals.
To cut out the noodles from the dough, you need to use a large cleaver-like tool. But, of course, you’re only cutting through dough and not meat, so it’s a lot lighter and not as sharp. There is also a specific technique for doing it properly. My friend was out of the room for this part of the explanation, so when he came back he picked up the cleaver and swung it over his head and down as if he was hacking meat. I remember the noodle chef putting his head in his hands and laughing as my friend chopped out the chunkiest, wobbliest soba noodles ever made.