After a very satisfying and well-earned meal of hot Rakuichi soba, imagine my disappointment to learn that real soba connoisseurs consider Rai-san’s cold soba to be better than his hot! Sadly though, I was not prepared to brave the blizzard a second time to put this to the test.

Intrigued nonetheless by cold soba possibilities, I had to content myself experimenting at home with store-bought noodles instead…


(Serves 2 as a light meal or snack)

100g of 100% buckwheat soba noodles

Mentsuyu Dipping Sauce  (Makes one cup of mentsuyu sauce concentrate)

  • ¼ cup sake
  • ½ cup mirin
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 piece of konbu 2 x 4cm
  • ½ cup dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi

To garnish:

  • Lightly toasted sesame seeds
  • Shredded nori
  • 1 finely sliced spring onion

It is traditional to serve cold soba on bamboo mats or in bamboo baskets

  Katsuobushi - dried bonito flakes

Katsuobushi - dried bonito flakes

  Dried konbu - sea kelp

Dried konbu - sea kelp

Begin making the sauce by bringing the sake to boil in a small saucepan. Allow the alcohol to evaporate off briefly before adding the mirin, soy sauce, konbu, and bonito flakes.

Bring to a boil once again, then once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. After this time, remove from the heat, and allow the ingredients to steep until the sauce has cooled to room temperature.

Then, drain through a fine sieve, discarding the used konbu and bonito flakes.

You now have a concentrated mentsuyu sauce that can stored in the fridge (up to a month) until ready to use.

To cook the soba noodles, bring plenty of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the noodles to the boiling water, and give them a stir so that they separate. No need to add salt to the cooking water as with pasta – the salty mentusuyu serves as the seasoning for cold soba.

Cooking time varies for different brands of soba, so consult the packet for a precise time. Some varieties need as little as 4 minutes, while others take up to 8.

After the indicated time period, immediately drain and rinse the noodles under a stream of cool running water. Continue rinsing for a few minutes, separating the noodles with your fingers as you do so. This step is key with cold soba, as it ensures the correct texture, and removes any ‘sliminess.’

Arrange your bamboo mats on the serving plates by folding them to size. Then, pick up bite sized bunches of noodles using a pair of chopsticks, and lay these onto the mat neatly by creating a small loop. This makes the noodles easy to pick up and eat, (and looks very pretty as well!).

Dilute the mentsuyu sauce to taste – a ratio of one part mentusuyu, to two parts water should be about right. The noodles are unseasoned remember, so it’s ok if the sauce is on the salty side.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds, sliced spring onions, and shredded nori on top to serve.