Topped with crispy shrimp tempura, fish cake and sliced scallion, this steamy bowl of Soba Noodle Soup is one of my favorite dishes to enjoy on the New Year’s Eve. In Japan, it is a tradition to eat soba noodles on this day.
Hot and Comforting Soba Noodle Soup
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, a bowl of hot noodle soup never fails to bring me great 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.
How To Make Soba Noodle Soup
Warm soba noodle soup in a delicate kombu dashi. Topped with shrimp tempura, kamaboko, and sliced scallion, this authentic soba noodle soup is enjoyed by the Japanese on New Year’s Eve.
Why Do Japanese 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. In this recipe, the dashi broth is flavored with kombu, bonito flakes, and the usual Japanese seasonings like mirin, soy sauce and sake. When the nutty buckwheat noodles immerse in the hot broth, you’d get a bowl of noodle soup that is light yet no lack of umami complexity.
This Soba Noodle Soup will keep you nourished and leave you a warm fuzzy feeling inside out. What a wonderful dish to welcome the New Year! Do you have a New Year’s Eve tradition where you are from or live? I’d love to know.
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Soba Noodle Soup
For Noodle Soup
To Make Noodle Soup
- [Optional] Soak kombu in water overnight (if you have time).
- 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 steep 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 simmer. Cover with the lid and set aside.
To Prepare Toppings
- Insert a knife at the bottom of kamaboko to separate it from the wooden board. Then cut the kamaboko into ¼” slices.
- Slice green onion 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 400ºF (200ºC) for 15 minutes, or according to the package instructions.
To Cook Soba Noodles
- Meanwhile, reheat the soup broth on low heat and boil two large pots of water. One for cooking soba noodles and the other pot for warming up the noodles after washing them (the second one is optional). Unlike pasta, you do not need to add salt to the water. Cook soba noodles according to the package instructions, but 30 seconds less. Mine says to cook for 4 minutes, so I cook for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
- Drain the soba noodles and wash the noodles with your hand under cold water to get rid of the slimy texture.
- [Optional - the right way] 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.
- Place the soba noodles in 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.
- You can keep the leftover soup and toppings separately in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2 days.