Noodles are an important part of Japanese cuisine. So important in fact that the Japanese have academies to teach the correct hand making and preparation of them. Yesterday, Akila Inouye, Master Chef of Tsukiji Soba Academy in Tokyo, visited Tei-An restaurant at One Arts Plaza to give a demonstration of the technique of making soba noodles. His visit to the US encompasses only New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The reason for Dallas’ place on the exclusive list is that Tei-An owner Teiichi Sakurai is a student of the master. When he sold his previous restaurants, Tei-Tei Robata Bar and Teppo Yakitori and Sushi Bar, he took time off before opening Tei-An to take a five week noodle course at the academy in Tokyo.
Soba noodles are made mainly or entirely from buckwheat flour. Inouye used a mixture 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat shown below
The flour for this demonstration came from Hokkaido, Japan. The wheat ripens at various times in Japan but first in Hokkaido so this, being in part a celebration of the beginning of the soba noodle season, had Hokkaido flour. The chef Inouye mixed the flour with water in a bowl and proceeded to knead the dough. I wonder if soba makers have the strongest arms in the world as the traditional process is entirely physical. By the time chef Inouye had created the dough ball below, he’d worked up quite a sweat.
The dough is rolled flat until it reaches the desired thickness (between 1.5 and 0.8 mm) which is check with special gauges.
The result is cut into slices with a knife and a form, and then the end trimmed to make noodles. The dough is plunged into boiling water and the cooking time is only 90 seconds. Soba can be served cold or added to soups. We had a plate of Shin Soba with two dipping sauces (Black Sesame and Soba Tsuyu-Soy base) shown below.
The small plate on the right contains sliced scallions, finely chopped daikon radish, and authentic wasabi. The noodles have a nutty taste that originates from the flour. Their nutritional properties are interesting and include the ability to prevent beri-beri (we didn’t catch beri beri all night). We drank only water at the demonstration but soba noodles are probably best paired with sake or a dry white wine (e.g. a Sauvignon Blanc).
One interesting aspect of eating this dish is that after you finish the noodles any remaining dipping sauce is diluted with the broth in which the noodles were cooked and you drink the resulting mixture. It tastes like all the memories of great sashimi encapsulated in a glass.
Master Chef Inouye has left for Los Angeles, but the product of his teaching is available six days a week at Tei-An.
1722 Routh St., Ste. 110
Dallas, TX 75201
Declaration of Interest: Someone, I suspect Tei-An and Tsukiji Soba Academy, paid for this and I was not there anonymously. I was responsible for the outrageously priced parking at One Arts Plaza.