Artisan Soba Making Class, Los Angeles

by jenjenk on June 14, 2010

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!
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula - bell'alimento June 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

So MUCH fun! Okay that's it, I need to move to CA so I can have fun with you guys ; )

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Jen June 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm

SEE??!! You totally need to move out to LA just so we can all have play time! :)

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Judy June 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Hi Jennifer, (I think I accidently didn't confirm my comment so if you get 2 of them – sorry.) Wow, what a fun experience! I would love to do something like this. I recently bought dry chasoba which I no longer want so make since your fresh soba looks so much more appetizing! You have a very nice blog and I love all the travel journaling & great photos. Cheers!

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Pegs June 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm

One. Sensei wasn't THAT bad. =) She mellowed with age too.

Two! I'm jealous! Let me know if you go to another class! I'm not supposed to eat noodles right now but everybody else in my fam does. =)

Looks YUMMY!

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Jen June 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Thanks for visiting, Judy!! I wish I could post as often as you do!! Love seeing all the yummy j-food I had as a kid!!

Pegs: no, not our sensei. it's that sensei from japan for our Natori kai! I don't know if you were there that day that I got the crapped knocked out of me. I was first man up and let me tell you…I was crying as i walked out of sensei's studio!

I'm thinking about going on the 26th again!! are you interested??

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gordolamb June 17, 2010 at 1:16 am

That looks like so much fun. I once read an article all about a Soba noodle maker in Japan. It sounded like such an intense and passionate career that I was a little intimidated to try and make them. Maybe I should give it a chance

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Fuji Mama June 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm

This is such an awesome post! That was such a fun day. I am dying to do it again. You couldn't help but love making soba, don't you think? Sensei's reverence and love for it was contagious. Ok, I say we both go to Tokyo and take the full on course and then come back and open our own soba shop. :)

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Lyndsey June 20, 2010 at 2:46 am

I wish I lived in LA to join in. I want to play! This was a fun post! I love all your photos! How did the fat noodles taste? Just kidding!

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Jen June 20, 2010 at 2:46 am

G: you really should give it a chance! it was an awesome experience and you COULD tell how passionate he was about his craft!

LFM: i totally think we should do it!! :) your hubby won't miss you too much, will he??

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Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite June 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I am in awe of this post! WOW – so jealous. You guys did an amazing job though!

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