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Soba Broth: When You Just Can't Get Enough Soba

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What is Soba Broth?

Soba is a popular noodle in Japan made from buckwheat. Buckwheat is a very starchy grain, so when you boil and cook soba, the water becomes cloudy with the starches from the soba. That cloudy water is called soba broth.

I've boiled a lot of pasta, but I've never once considered drinking the water I boiled my pasta in. That's waste. So I was surprised to learn that people drink the soba equivalent.

The Origins of Soba Broth? Unknown.

It's not known when or where exactly people started drinking soba broth. Some say that the custom began in Shinshu, a country that is largely contained within modern Nagano prefecture. Nagano is one of the regions of Japan well known for soba today. It's well known for its "zaru soba", soba that's eaten cold. They say that after eating cold zaru soba, drinking the warm soba broth is a nice way to end the meal.

A plausible theory, but we don't have any solid historical evidence to confirm or deny. I encourage you to visit Nagano and investigate the theory further.

How and When to Drink Soba Broth

Pouring soba broth out of the Fukui Craft Square Yutou Soba Broth Pot

When I was preparing to get married, I went to the place where I and my future wife were going to get married and sampled the meal they would serve at the wedding. It was a multi-course meal, I think French. It was the first time I had ever had a meal like that, so I was often confused. Why did they give me three forks? How do I eat this lonely vegetable or piece of meat? Do I dip it in this sauce drawn elegantly around the plate?

I'm a simple man, so I wasn't prepared for the complexity of fine dining. I wish they'd provided a dining manual.

Similarly, I imagine you may be confused by soba broth and in need of a soba broth dining manual. You've come to the right place.

The good news is that there aren't any hard and fast rules for drinking soba broth. Some people drink it during the meal while they're eating soba, or they drink it as a meal finisher to warm up after eating some cold soba.

Soba that's served cold (zaru soba) is often served with a sort of dressing called "soba tsuyu". It's made with soy sauce and other ingredients. Some people will add their dressing to their broth before drinking it. It adds a bit of salt and sugar to the otherwise simple flavor of the soba broth.

In other words, there's no wrong way to drink soba broth. Just do what feels right.

How Does It Taste?

Soba broth in a cup

Now that you know how to enjoy some soba broth, you're probably wondering if it's any good. I decided to try some for myself.

We recently had the opportunity to make some handmade soba using the Hounen Handmade Soba Kit. Unfortunately, we didn't save any of the soba broth from our handmade soba, so we used some store-bought soba flour to make some broth.

I must say that I don't see the appeal. Soba broth is a bit smooth due to the high starch content. The broth I tried tasted like starch water. That's it. Putting some soba tsuyu in didn't have a significant effect on the flavor. My Japanese wife also doesn't like soba broth.

The quality of the soba has a strong influence on the quality of the broth, so it's possible that my experience would be different if I went to a high-quality soba restaurant or had saved some soba broth from our handmade soba.

If you are making some homemade soba, it's worth trying it, especially if you consider yourself a soba fan. However, I wouldn't go out of your way to try the stuff if you aren't a true soba fan.

However, if you are one of the few who can't get enough of the stuff and want to serve it to your friends, or simply level-up your soba broth experience, then you should consider getting the Fukui Craft Square Yutou Soba Broth Pot. Pull out the beautiful red and cube-shaped soba broth pot when you have friends over to secure your street cred as a soba maximalist.

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