My family is a noodle family – ramen, udon, somen, soba, chow mein, lo mein, spaghetti – there isn’t a noodle that I’ve met that I haven’t liked. My dad, a traditional Japanese papa, loves noodles so much that several decades ago, he actually bought a pasta maker and buckwheat just so that he could make his own from scratch. It was so much work for as much soba that he ate that he eventually gave it up and went back to store bought.
A few months ago, I came across the website of Sonoko Sanai, Cook Tells a Story about a soba making class last year that was SOLD out. I stalked her website until I saw the magic words, “Soba Making Class Schedule 2010“. I hauled @$$ to get registered and called Fuji Mama RIGHT away, you know, AFTER I made sure MY registration was in. Yeah, I suck. I know it.
Due to some technical difficulties [unfortunately for them], Rachael and I were the only students in the class [fortunately for us!]. I was very nervous when I first stood at the table. You see, I studied Japanese Classical Dancing for many, many years. We brought in a very, very scary little Sensei from Japan who’s method of correction was using the bamboo end of her fan [a dancer’s tool of the trade] to smack me. Hard. So you can imagine my apprehension and fear as I stood waiting for instruction knowing that the tools of THIS trade was a evil looking knife and a rolling pin.
I started to relax once the class began and sensei’s sincere desire to share his craft came through. He gently instructed us on how to handle the soba, the exacting measurements of the authentic edo era artisan soba – nihachi soba [a 2 AP flour to 8 buckwheat flour proportion], as well as allowing us to taste the Hitachi soba flour.
Beautiful, snowy white soba
The amazing and talented La Fuji Mama [who’s Japanese skills are probably far greater than mine if only she wasn’t too shy use it!!] ROCKED the class. The sensei declared her an “intermediate” student of soba making due to her virtuoso handling of the dough. It was such a therapeutic and calming act to work with the soba with your hands, kneading the dough, rolling out, and cutting. I LOVED it.
Fuji Mama showing off her Mad Skillz
Although I should have expected it, knowing how exact so many things are in the Japanese culture, I never expected the precision and mathematical knowledge that is needed to produce the perfect soba noodle. I mean, really. There are only TWO ingredients in Soba – Soba flour and Filtered [preferably soft] Water. A humidity gauge was used to determine the percentage of water to add for that day. That means that day to day the proportion of water to flour can change. And to mix the flour? Finger tips only and very gently [the only time you should use your finger tips throughout the process].
As for rolling out the dough? 1.5 mm thick. Exactly. We even measured it to make sure it really was.
Each noodle was cut to a precise 1.3mm by angling the knife 1.3 degrees to the left. I’m no mathematical genius so my cuts were all over the place.
I discovered after the cuts that although my EDGES were 1.5mm thick the center was not…hence my crazy and fat noodles…
The soba was boiled for only 2 minutes, no more, then shocked in cold ice water to stop the cooking process.
But after all that hard work, we were able to enjoy the wonderful soba!
It’s not too late to sign up for the class if you’re in Los Angeles in the month of June. Please visit Mazumizu for the schedule and to register!