Noodles are a staple in many countries, and loved by many more. It's fair to say that among the diversity of Japanese food, noodle dishes are right up there when we think of Japanese cuisine.
Ramen, udon and soba are all typical dishes that one can find almost anywhere. In fact, it's so easy to grab a counter seat at a shop or add hot water to packaged varieties that I'd never really thought about making noodles from scratch. Sounded like a lot of time, effort and mess. And to be honest, I'm not the type who instinctively enjoys the everyday cooking process.
Yet when it comes to understanding new cultures, I'm drawn to food. Not only do I want to taste everything, I want to know all about what went into the dishes and how they were made (interesting side notes and secret ingredients included).
Recently, we visited Komatsuzawa Leisure Farm (小松沢レジャー農園) in Chichibu (Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo) to learn the ropes of soba (buckwheat noodle) making. There are many seasonal activities that can be enjoyed at the farm such as strawberry, mushroom and sweet potato picking, as well catching trout by hand and bug collecting, favorite pastimes of young Japanese children. Their soba making classes, however, are available all year round, and allow you to experience the process from start to finish.
Soba is a dish that the Japanese enjoy both hot during cooler months and cold as a refreshing summer favorite. It's a simple dish to prepare because all you have to do is boil the noodles and then fill a small pot with the appropriate dipping sauce, and some spring onions or sesame seeds to taste, and you have yourself a filling and tasty meal.
With only three ingredients, a little know-how and some (large!) kitchen equipment, however, I found that making the soba noodles themselves not to be the overwhelming task I had imagined. And it doesn't hurt that you have a soba making guru by your side to keep you on the right track! Machida san lead us expertly through the steps, demonstrating the correct techniques.
Here's our soba making experience in pictures.
The combination of fresh ingredients and the satisfaction of creating something with our own hands, made this the best soba we've had yet!
Soba lessons are available throughout the country. For an interesting Japanese cultural and culinary experience, why not give it a try?
Soba Lessons at Komatsuzawa Leisure Farm
Cost: ¥4,200 (up to 4 people). You will make enough soba for 4 people, even if your group is smaller. It can be cooked for an additional ¥200 per person or you can take it with you. In our case, we ate half for lunch and then took the rest home.
Reservations required. Japanese only. You can take the lesson itself without knowing Japanese as you can learn from the demonstration.
Access: If you have access to a car, this would be the most convenient option since the farm is not close to a train station. However, the farm does offer pick-up from Yokoze and Chichibu Stations when arranged in advance. They have set shuttle bus times for the return journey back to the station.
For more info, please visit their website (Japanese only).