The Noodle Maker

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hq 1952.jpg Almost every locality or prefecture in Japan has its own variation.

Traditionally soba is the noodle of choice in Tokyo, probably as a result of the Edo period.  Being considerably wealthier than the rural poor, the population of Edo (now Tokyo), had a higher consumption of white rice which is low in thiamine, making them susceptible to beri beri. It is thought they made up for this by eating thiamine-rich soba.

Like modern cafes, every neighbourhood had one or two soba establishments where locals could drop by and enjoy casual food and sake.

In Japan, soba is available fresh, although these days more commonly sold dried and bundled. Top restaurants make their own using Japanese buckwheat and are more expensive than those made with the cheaper imported Chinese buckwheat. Because noodles made out of pure buckwheat can easily fall apart when boiled, the buckwheat flour is usually mixed with a binder, often wheat flour.

Raw noodles are made by making a dough out of flour (buckwheat and wheat flour for soba), water and salt. The dough is quickly kneaded, more than Italian pasta as the dough contains little gluten. Formed into a ball to stop it drying it is flattened to an even thickness, then rolled out flat. Using the rod or thin rolling pin, the dough is folded then sliced into noodle strands using a special knife. The quality of the noodle is highly dependent on the skill of the maker, especially soba noodles with a high buckwheat content. The raw noodles are then boiled before being served hot or cold.

The name “noodles” can be applied to cooked, fresh or dried noodles, which must be reconstituted in boiling water or soaking in warm water. It includes all varieties from all origins, but can be divided by its primary ingredient – wheat (such as udon and somen), buckwheat (soba), egg, rice, mung bean or potato starch (known as cellophane or glass noodles).