Toshikoshi Soba (New Year’s Eve Noodles) 年越しそば – ‘Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories’

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  • Cross over into the New Year with a piping hot bowl of soba noodle soup – a tradition called Toshikoshi Soba.  It’s a simple Japanese noodle dish to melt away the hardship of the past year and welcome the journey ahead.

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    On New Year’s Eve, or Ōmisoka (大晦日), it is a custom for Japanese to reflect on the past year and usher in the coming year, all while enjoying a bowl of hot soba noodles, called Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦), or year-crossing noodle.  What better way to cross over a symbolic bridge than slurping up soba noodles!

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    What is Toshikoshi Soba (New Year’s Eve Noodles)?

    The New Year in Japan is about beginning with a fresh, clean slate.  That’s the essence of Toshikoshi Soba – starting out simple with a hot soba noodle dish that is healthy and easy to make, and just happens to be a bowl full of symbolism. More on that later. 

    The soba noodle dish served on New Year’s Eve is usually in its simplest form – buckwheat soba noodles served in a hot dashi broth with finely chopped scallions.  But the basic tradition of Toshikoshi Soba can be taken to the next level by adding in tempura, fish cakes, or raw egg.  I believe the New Year should also start out deliciously!

    The Toshikoshi Soba recipe I am sharing today is featured on the popular Japanese TV drama called “Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)” or “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” on Netflix.

    Midnight Diner features dishes that are more representative of Japanese home cooked recipes that you might not have seen in your local Japanese restaurants.  “New Year’s Eve Noodles” episode is Season 1, Episode 10 on Netflix.

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    History & Culture of Eating Soba Noodles on New Year’s Eve

    The custom and its name differs by region in Japan, but the tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year’s Eve started as early as the 13th or 14th century. However, not until the more recent Edo Period – when the common class developed customary religious and superstitious rituals – did Toshikoshi Soba become more established as an annual tradition on New Year’s Eve for most Japanese people. 

    With the hope of good fortune in each bowl, it’s easy to imagine the custom being adopted quickly from family to family, slurping in the symbolism of soba noodles:   

    • To enjoy a fulfilling, peaceful life with every slurp of the long soba noodles.

    • To break free from the past like the soba noodle so easily breaks with each bite.

    • To gather strength and resilience like the tough buckwheat crop.

    • To grow your fortune just as buckwheat flour was once used by goldsmiths to gather up leftover gold dust.

    Superstitious or not, enjoying toshikoshi soba has become one of the most enduring traditions observed by the Japanese people in the New Year. 

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    Make Good Dashi for Toshikoshi Soba (New Year’s Eve Noodles)

    For a simple noodle soup dish, a good tasty broth is elemental. After all, you want to taste the broth that’s so good that you want to drink up all the soup.

    This dashi based soup broth is light, yet savory and umami rich from all the essence from kombu and katsuobushi.  Unlike chicken or vegetable stock, Japanese soup broth is fast and simple to make. I wouldn’t recommend taking any short cuts like using dashi powder, unless you have absolutely no choice.  The difference it makes is tremendous.

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    Vegan/Vegetarian Soba Noodle Soup

    To make a vegan or vegetarian friendly toshikoshi soba, it is as simple as switching out some ingredients just as below:

    1. Skip katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and make Kombu Dashi with just kombu.
    2. Skip kamaboko (fish cake) and add tofu or any other vegetarian/vegan friendly toppings.

    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.

    After all the hearty holiday feasts and sweets, Toshikoshi Soba is a welcoming and comforting dish this time of the year.  In the company of family and friends, all warming up over steamy bowls of nutritious soba noodle soup, is a tradition I hope you can adopt to ring in the New Year. 

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    5 from 1 vote
    Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed in a Japanese bowl.
    Toshikoshi Soba
    Prep Time
    10 mins
    Cook Time
    20 mins
    Total Time
    30 mins
     
    Course: Main Course
    Servings: 2
    Ingredients
    Toppings
    Instructions
    1. Gather all the ingredients. [Optional] Soak the kombu in water for overnight. If you don’t have time, start soaking the kombu as soon as you can. Bring a big pot of water to a boil for soba noodles.
      Toshikoshi Soba 1
    2. Add the kombu and kombu water (kombu dashi) in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring it to a boil over medium low heat (so kombu dashi will be more flavorful) . When almost boiling, discard the kombu (you can make Furikake rice seasoning with the leftover kombu).
      Toshikoshi Soba 5
    3. Add the katsuobushi and simmer for 30 seconds. Then turn off the heat and let katsuobushi sink to the bottom of saucepan. Let Katsuobushi steep for about 10 minutes (meanwhile you can prepare toppings).
      Toshikoshi Soba 6
    4. Drain and reserve the dashi in the measuring cup (or bowl) and discard the katsuobushi (you can make Furikake rice seasonings with the leftover katsuobushi). Put the dashi back in the saucepan.
      Toshikoshi Soba 7
    5. Add the sake, mirin, usukuchi soy sauce (or regular soy sauce), and kosher salt
      Toshikoshi Soba 9
    6. Bring it to a simmer and set aside.
      Toshikoshi Soba 10
    7. Re-hydrate wakame seaweed in 1 cup water. Then squeeze the water out and set aside.
      Toshikoshi Soba 2
    8. Thinly slice the green onion.
      Toshikoshi Soba 3
    9. Detach the bottom of the kamaboko (fish cake) from the wooden board and slice 4 pieces.
      Toshikoshi Soba 4
    10. In a boiling water, cook soba noodles according to the package instruction, but 30 seconds less. Unlike pasta, you do not need to add salt to the water.
      Toshikoshi Soba 11
    11. Drain the soba noodles and rinse the noodles under cold water to get rid of the starch. Serve the noodles in the bowl.
      Toshikoshi Soba 12
    12. Pour hot soup broth over soba noodles, top with kamaboko, wakame seaweed, and green onions. Enjoy while it’s hot.
      Toshikoshi Soba 13
    Recipe Notes

    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 in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

     

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