Made from buckwheat flour, soba is a traditional noodle dish in Japan and is considered to represent Japanese cuisine along with sushi and tempura. Soba is served in a hot soup, or is cooled and served on a strainer along with dipping sauce. Simple cold soba menus include zarusoba (with nori seaweed topping) and morisoba (without nori topping). Soba is a very common in menu Japanese people regularly and is available at various types of eateries, from specialty restaurants to tachigui (stand-and-eat) shop. Soba cup noodles are also popular to eat at home, as it is ready within a few minutes after pouring hot water.
Just like many other Japanese dishes, there are some local differences for soba noodles. In the Kanto region, a soup for soba is dark-colored and strongly flavored, as it is prepared by boiling katsuobushi (bonito flake) dashi stock with koikuchi (dark-colored) shoyu, mirin, and sugar. On the other hand, soba in the Kansai region is served in a soup whose flavor centers that of bonito/kelp dashi stock. It is seasoned and lightly colored by usukuchi (light-colored) shoyu.
Chopped negi onion is a common condiment that accompanies both hot and cold soba noodles. To add a spice, hot soba is served with shichimi togarashi (hot pepper) while cold soba comes with wasabi. At many restaurants, servers bring sobayu to the table when customers finish eating cold soba, such as morisoba or zarusoba. Sobayu is cooking water from boiling noodles and is added to a dipping sauce cup to thin down the sauce for enjoying the flavor of soba until the last drop. Although making noises while eating is generally considered a bad manner at the table, soba and udon noodles are an exception in Japan, and it has been customary to slurp up the noodles to eat. It is said that soba tastes better when slurping to bring aroma of soba to the mouth.
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