Zaru soba is one of Japan’s favorite summer meals. It’s light, healthy and so delicious you won’t be able to stop slurping! Keep a jar of mentsuyu dipping sauce in your fridge and make yourself chilled buckwheat noodles all summer long in less than 10 minutes!
Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles)
Why I waited so long to publish this recipe is a mystery. It’s a dish I make every week and have loved since the first time I had it in Japan at the age of four. It’s simple, healthy, cleansing and a favorite among noodle lovers. It’s my #1 dish of the summer, every summer and it’s called zaru soba which means strained buckwheat noodles. Zaru soba is a no frills chilled noodle dish that is served with mentsuyu, a dipping sauce made with bonito flakes, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and kombu (dried kelp). It’s then served with toppings such as chopped scallions, grated daikon and shredded nori.
Dipping ice cold buckwheat noodles in a dipping sauce packed with umami is heavenly. It cools down the body and the mind like nothing else can on a hot summer day.
So many toppings to choose from
There are many different ways to serve zaru soba; with a side of shrimp and vegetable tempura, topped with mountain yams (a favorite of mine called tororo soba) or mountain vegetables, with raw seafood such as salmon roe and sea urchin. Because it’s a fairly light dish, zaru soba won’t leave you feeling groggy. Instead, it gives you a nice boost of energy that keeps you alert and focused throughout the work day.
I’m seriously in love soba noodles, there’s something I find extremely satisfying in the way the noodles taste and feel. When I lived in Tokyo I ate soba every day for lunch and sometimes as a late night snack. Soba shops and stands are everywhere in Japan (even on train platforms) and a basic bowl of noodles will only cost you about $3.50. To me, it was the perfect meal because not only was it cheap to eat, it was also low in calories and fat. It’s one of those dishes that yields a lean and trim tummy – perfect for a model’s diet!
Being able to eat healthy foods for less than $5 is something I dearly miss about Japan. You can walk into a convenience store and buy salads, chilled noodles, boiled pumpkin, tofu, even sashimi for little to nothing. Renting an apartment in Tokyo may be as expensive as in New York but food is a lot cheaper there. In Manhattan, a bowl of soba will cost you at least $10 – which is crazy to me and the reason why I prefer to make it at home.
The ingredients needed to make zaru soba are easy to find (at your local Asian supermarket or on Amazon). They are also the base of many other Japanese dishes. I always have the pantry basics at hand so I can whip up delicious meals whenever I am in the mood for a little Japanese.
Pre-made mentsuyu (dipping sauce) is available but I find the flavors a little too aggressive. Homemade is milder, sweeter, all around better! It’s not hard to make either, you just need time to let the ingredients simmer and the flavors develop. Make a big container of mentsuyu and store it in the fridge for up to a month. This way, next time you crave a bowl of zaru soba you will only need to boil the noodles and chop a few scallions (grated daikon is optional).
Other easy and delicious summer noodle recipes:
- Ramen noodle salad
- Japanese chilled tomato and tuna spaghetti
- Vegan dan dan noodles
- Soba noodle salad
- Healthier Hawaiian macaroni salad
Did you like this Zaru Soba Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share?