Zaru Soba is a classic Japanese noodle dish perfect for cooling off in warm weather. Learn how to make it and enjoy its delicious and refreshing taste!
Zaru Soba is a go-to staple in summer for many Japanese people, including me! You can make these tasty noodles with only simple ingredients.
Whether you are a fan of Japanese cuisine or just looking for a light and tasty meal, this Zaru Soba recipe is a great option!
- This recipe is for you if:
- You love Japanese soba noodles.
- You want to make a simple soba noodle dish.
- You are looking for Zaru Soba recipe.
Let me walk you through the ingredients and the instructions. If you want to check the recipe, click below. Let's get started!
About This Recipe
- A cold soba noodle dish
- Straightforward Zaru Soba recipe
- Japanese ingredients explained
- How to serve and how to eat
- Condiment variations
What is Zaru Soba?
Zaru soba is a popular Japanese dish consisting of cold buckwheat soba noodles served on a bamboo tray called a Zaru with a side of dipping sauce called mentsuyu. The noodles come with condiments like sliced scallions and wasabi for added flavor.
zaru soba is a simple yet delicious meal perfect for a hot summer day, as the cold soba noodles and dipping sauce provide a refreshing and satisfying meal.
Here are the ingredients (amounts are in the recipe card below).
- Soba Noodles: Dried, fresh, or boiled soba noodles are available at grocery stores. I use dried soba noodles in this recipe. See more details below.
- Mentsuyu: It's a multipurpose noodle soup base with a savory flavor from dashi broth (Japanese soup stock), mirin, and soy sauce. I use store-bought one in this recipe. See more details below.
- Condiments: Green onions (or scallions, spring onions, and chives) and wasabi, which is a pungent, spicy green-colored paste that is often served as a condiment with sushi.
- Shredded Nori seaweed (Kizami nori)
Soba noodles are popular Japanese noodles made by kneading buckwheat flour with water, stretching it thinly, and cutting it into thin strips. The light gray color is from buckwheat flour.
With their chewy texture and subtle taste, these noodles enhance any soup it's paired with.
You might be able to find dried, fresh, or frozen soba noodles at Asian grocery stores. Dried noodles are handy; I usually buy them and keep the stock in my pantry.
Mentsuyu (Noodle Soup Base)
Mentsuyu is a concentrated soup base used in Japanese cuisine to make various noodle soups, including udon and soba. It is made from a mixture of dashi (soup broth), soy sauce, and mirin (sweet rice wine).
For those short on time, using bottled mentsuyu is easiest. I always keep one in my fridge as this versatile sauce is perfect for cooking Japanese dishes. I use store-bought one in this recipe.
The instructions on the bottle will usually specify how much water to add, as the ratio can vary depending on the product.
If you prefer homemade mentsuyu, see my recipe below.
Where to Buy Japanese Ingredients
If you live in the US, you can find Japanese ingredients in the list below.
- Japanese market: Mitsuwa Marketplace, Marukai
- Asian market
- Whole Foods Market
- Health food stores
- Online stores: Instacart, Walmart, Amazon
Let me show you how to make it! Click here to watch the recipe video.
- Chop green onions
- Cook soba noodles in boiling water
- Drain noodles
- Make dipping sauce
Chop green onions and serve on a small plate with some wasabi.
Boil plenty of water in a medium saucepan, add soba noodles, and cook according to the package instructions (commonly, dried soba noodles take 4 to 7 minutes). Stir the noodles with chopsticks to separate them while cooking.
Drain using a strainer and quickly rinse under cold running water to cool it down.
Combin mentsuyu and water in a measuring jar and pour into a serving bowl.
Place a bamboo strainer on a plate, place soba noodles, and serve with dipping sauce and condiments, and enjoy the fresh noodles!
- Mentsuyu - The instructions on the bottle will usually specify how much water to add, as the ratio can vary depending on the product.
- Soba noodle boiling time - Dried noodles take 4-7 minutes, fresh noodles take 2-3 minutes, and boiled noodles take 30 seconds to 1 minute. The cooking time can vary depending on the type and brand of soba noodles.
Mentsuyu is typically made from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), which is unsuitable for a vegan diet.
However, you can substitute it with dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu seaweed to make a vegan-friendly sauce, which can be a good alternative for those following a vegan diet or who prefer plant-based options.
How to Serve Zaru Soba
When eating at a Japanese restaurant, zaru soba is typically served on a bamboo strainer (zaru) or bamboo basket, with dipping sauce and condiments on the side.
The bamboo strainer drains any excess water from the noodles and prevents them from becoming soggy. It helps to keep the soba noodles firm and chewy, allowing you to enjoy their texture and flavor to the fullest.
Additionally, the strainer adds a traditional touch to the dish's presentation, making it an attractive and appealing option for serving. (The strainer in the photo is made of plastic, not bamboo.)
How to Eat Zaru Soba
Try the zaru soba with just the noodles and dipping sauce. You can then experiment with adding condiments to the sauce to adjust the flavor to your liking. Whether to add them little by little or all at once is a matter of personal preference.
To eat zaru soba, use chopsticks (see how to hold chopsticks) to pick up a few noodles and dip them into the sauce halfway, making sure not to fully submerge them as the sauce overpowers the soba noodles' flavor.
Next, lift the noodles out of the sauce and slurp them up to savor their chewy texture. Be careful, as the sauce may splatter (if you are comfortable slurping).
About slurping noodles
If you come from a culture where slurping food is uncommon, slurping noodles may feel strange. However, if you want to fully experience zaru soba's deliciousness, come to Japan and slurp noodles with us! It's a fun and authentic way to enjoy this popular Japanese dish and immerse yourself in the local culture!
When dining at soba restaurants in Japan, it is common to be served sobayu after finishing the dish. Sobayu is the water used to cook soba noodles, similar to pasta water. You can drink sobayu like tea or add it to the remaining dipping sauce and drink.
Sobayu is rich in nutrients such as vitamin B1 and rutin, also found in soba noodles. Consuming sobayu allows you to enjoy the nutritional benefits of soba noodles and their unique flavor. Thus, sobayu is a great way to experience the full benefits of soba noodles.
Variations of Condiments
Experimenting with different condiments is a great way to add extra flavor to your liking. Some popular condiments for zaru soba include:
- Green onion, spring onion - adds a fresh taste.
- Grated ginger - adds a zesty and aromatic flavor.
- Daikon oroshi (Grated Japanese radish) - adds a fresh and slightly tangy flavor.
- Wasabi - adds a spicy kick to the sauce.
- Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend) - adds a spicy and slightly smoky flavor.
- Ponzu (citrus-based sauce) - adds a tart and tangy flavor.
- Sesame seeds - add a nutty flavor and added texture.
Feel free to experiment and find the combination that you enjoy the most!
Variety of Japanese Soba Noodle Recipes
There are many soba noodle recipes that you can try, from chilled to hot soba soup. Find more below and enjoy these nutty noodles!
- Kake soba is a simple soba noodle dish in hot mentsuyu soup.
- Toshikoshi soba is a Japanese tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year's Eve to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new year.
- Tempura soba is soba noodles served in a hot broth with crispy tempura (battered and fried seafood or vegetables) on top.
Thanks For Stopping By!
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Also, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions. I love hearing from you!
Chef JA Cooks is a Japanese food blog that shares simple and healthy Japanese home cooking recipes, including vegan and vegetarian. From traditional Japanese recipes to modern recipes with step-by-step instructions.
More Noodle Recipes You Might Like
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- Yaki udon
- 8 Easy Japanese Udon Recipes
Zaru Soba (Japanese Cold Soba Noodles)Print Pin Save Saved!
- Prepare condiments: Chop green onions and serve on a small plate along with a little wasabi.
- Cook soba noodles: Boil plenty of water (not in the ingredients list) in a medium saucepan, add soba noodles, and cook according to the package instructions. Stir the noodles with chopsticks to separate them while cooking.
- Drain the noodles: Drain using a strainer and quickly rinse under cold running water to cool it down.
- Dipping sauce: Combin mentsuyu and water in a measuring jar and pour into a serving bowl.
- Serve: Place a bamboo strainer on a plate, put the soba noodles, top with shredded nori seaweed, and serve with dipping sauce and condiments.
- Find the homemade mentsuyu recipe here.
- If you use store-bought mentsuyu, follow the instruction on the bottle. How much water to add depends on the product.