Attempting to warm up my cold hands by holding the warm bowl, I slurp away the noodles inside the steam coming off from the piping hot broth. On a cold rainy day or when I feel under the weather, having a bowl of hot noodle soup always bring me comfort. I always prefer udon or ramen over soba noodles when it comes to hot noodle soup, except for one day out of 365 days. I must eat hot soba noodle soup on the New Year’s Eve.
Why Do We Eat Soba Noodle Soup on New Year Eve?
New Year’s Eve is called Ōmisoka (大晦日) in Japanese and it’s a Japanese custom to eat soba noodles on Omisoka. We call this tradition Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそば) or year-crossing noodle. The custom and its name differs by region in Japan, but this tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867). There are several theories why we have this custom and here are some well-known ones:
- Long thin soba noodles symbolize a long life.
- Buckwheat can survive severe weather, which represents strength and resiliency.
- Goldsmiths use buckwheat flour to gather gold dust, which symbolizes good fortune.
- Soba noodles are easily cut while eating, which symbolizes letting go of hardship of the year.
Simple Toppings for Soba Noodle Soup
For Toshikoshi Soba, the noodles are often eaten plain without any toppings, or with just chopped scallions. I like mine to be simple too as we usually eat Toshikoshi Soba before midnight. Some people top them with tempura or fish cakes. Some eat cold soba instead of soba in hot soup. Today I’ll show you the Soba Noodle Soup recipe which I would normally prepare for regular meal. Do you have a New Year’s Eve tradition where you are from or live? I’d love to know!
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- 4 cups (1000 ml) water
- 4” x 3” (10 x 8 cm) kombu
- 1 cup (10 g) packed katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
- 2 Tbsp. mirin
- 1 Tbsp. sake
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Kamaboko (fish cake)
- 2 frozen shrimp tempura (packaged)
- 1 bunch komatsuna or spinach
- 3 inch Tokyo negi or 1 scallion/green onion
- 7 oz (200 g) dried soba noodles
- Ichimi or Shichimi Togarashi (I use Season with Spice brand)
- Soak kombu in water overnight.
- Transfer kombu and water into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil. When it’s almost boiling, remove kombu from water and discard.
- Add katsuobushi and simmer for 30 seconds. Then turn off the heat and let katsuobushi sink to the bottom of pan. Let Katsuobushi seep for about 10 minutes.
- Strain the dashi over a large strainer lined with a paper towel set over another saucepan. Gently twist and squeeze the paper towel to release any remaining dashi into the saucepan.
- Add mirin, sake, soy sauce, and salt in the dashi and bring the soup to a boil. Set aside until warming up later.
- Insert a knife at the bottom of kamaboko to separate it from the wooden board. Then cut the kamaboko into ¼” slices.
- Slice Tokyo negi thinly and cut komatsuna into 2 inch pieces.
- Boil the komatsuna in salted water. I first boil the hard bottom parts of komatsuna since they take longer to cook. Then add the leafy part later. Once they are tender, take them out and soak in ice water to stop cooking. Drain well.
- Bake shrimp tempura at 400F for 15 minutes, or according to the package instructions.
- Meanwhile boil two large pots of water (See Note). One for cooking soba noodles and the other pot for warming up the noodles after washing them. Cook soba according to the package instructions less 30 seconds*. Mine says cook for 4 minutes, so I cook 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Unlike pasta, you do not need to add salt to the water.
- Drain the soba noodles and wash the noodles with hand under cold water to get rid of slimy texture.
- Then transfer the soba noodles into the other pot of boiling water to warm up the noodles again. Once they are warm, drain and place them into a serving bowl.
- Pour hot soup over the noodles and place toppings. Sprinkle shichimi togarashi or ichimi togarashi if you like it spicy. Serve immediately.
* If you have Mentsuyu, you can dilute it with hot water to make a soup broth.
* Adjust the seasoning as you like - to make it saltier or sweeter. I intended to bring out good dashi flavor so my seasonings may be too light for some of you.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Disclosure: My friends at Season with Spice sent me this Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Seven Spice) and I truly love it. I don’t get any compensation by promoting their products but because I love their spices so much I’d like to share! Sharing is caring. Oh, they carry Matcha green tea powder that I love, too!