Soba Workshop April 18, 2015

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The April soba workshop will feature "fresh bamboo" from Penryn Farms.  I have been buying bamboo from farmer Jeff Reiger for three years in a row.  He knows to alert me when the shoots are coming up. Where else in America does that happen?  I feel so lucky and his bamboo shoots are absolutely delicious. If you want to join me on April 18, please e mail me at [email protected]

Gluten Free Soba Noodles Workshop - March 14, 2015

Posted on March 8, 2015 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)
Soba Workshop in Highland Park on March 14, 2015
Hours: 11-2pm

I just received 100 lbs of stone-milled buckwheat from Japan.
Will be offering a hands-on experience making noodles.
We will do tastings of three types of noodles - zarusoba classic, soba with walnut sauce and duck soba in a hot broth.
Some homemade koji pickles and Shiratama rice desert will be part of the tasting menu.  Fee: $95
To register, please contact [email protected]


2015 Soba Workshop - Gourmandise Cooking School

Posted on January 16, 2015 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (1)

Happy New Year!  I defitely feel like I am off to a fresh start.  My resolution of 2015 is to keep the blog current,, fun and informative.  For fun, there will be two soba workshops in January at Gourmandise Cooking School in Santa Monica.  Both classes are three hours long, and totally hands on.  Let's get our hands in flour and make noodles.  
To register, please go to the Gourmandise Website (" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Here is the link).  

Gluten Free Soba Workshop

Posted on May 26, 2014 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I have a dedicated soba room in our house - our second bedroom.  But for this gluten free soba workshop, I wanted to do it in a larger space, so I moved the workshop to the living room and dining room.   I asked Sakai to make me a second large table to accomodate the number students that signed up for this class.  The arrangement worked really well.  We had good light, plenty of space, and we got to stay together as a group.  This was a gluten free class but it turns out that everyone was gluten tolerant and most of them just wanted to make 100% buckwheat noodles.  I used fava beans soy sauce to make the dipping sauce.  It tasted fine.  We tasted two sobas:  the classic zaru soba and a leek and mushroom soba in a hot broth. I made koji pickles with market carrots, radishes and cucumbers, an egg omelete and for dessert, an plum and apricot agar jelly with tanba black beans.  Everyone enjoyed the workshop.
By 7pm, I was out of the house, driving to Tehachapi.  

Kale and Asparagus Soba Salad

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am making soba for Deborah Madison's cookbook promotion at Cooks County tomorrow.  So I thought I would practice a little.  I have to make 80 servings but the portions are small, so it should go pretty quickly.  There is a Kale Soba Salad in Madison's Vegetarian Literacy. This recipe is inspired by that one and the soba noodles are of course, made fresh.  My friend Casey came over with some chicken eggs.  I gave her soba.  What a great trade!

Soba Salad with Kale
Serves 4
1 bunch Tuscan kale, leaves sliced, thinly, crosswise and rubbed with ¼ tsp of salt
1 Tbls lightly roasted sesame oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbls Lightly roasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 -2 tsp soy sauce
4 servings of soba noodles, freshly made or cooked, or used dry noodles, cooked
Garnishes: 3 scallions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 pinches shichimi pepper 2 Tbls roasted sesame seeds

Make the soba noodles and the salad dressing.  

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Taste and make adjustments, as necessary. Rub salt and sesame oil on sliced kale, until leaves soften. Set aside. Boil the noodles, drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shock noodles in ice water. Drain well. In a salad bowl, toss sliced kale and the dressing. Gently combine with the soba.  Sprinkle the garnishes, and serve immediately. 

Grains at the heart of a meal

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Grains at the heart of a meal

It always gives me great comfort to know that when I cannot think of what to make for supper, I can always rely on rice or noodles and everything else will eventually fall into place. I plan my meals this way  -- around grains. Of course, if I see fresh fish at the market, fish becomes the centerpiece of the meal along with vegetables, but they serve to enchance the flavor of grains and balance out the meal.  

Everyone Loves Asian Noodles

Posted on September 7, 2013 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Tara Duggan of SF Chrnoicle introduced my zaru soba recipe in this articled titled Everyone Loves Asian Noodles.

Here is the link.  

Cookbook-Echo Park - Soba-to-Go

Posted on June 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (2)

I am offering fresh soba-to-go at Cookbook in L.A. again this summer.  I am starting in July and I may go on till August. It is always good to be kneading and sharing my noodles with Los Angelenos.

Bar Tartine Koji Dinner

Posted on June 1, 2013 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (1)

I am in San Francisco doing several food events. One that we just finished on May 28 is a dinner at Tartine, themed around Koji - fermented rice. We "kojiied" so many foods - we used it to marinate beef, veggies, fish, even the daikon garnish of my soba. 

I made 120 servings of soba - a record. I had Lori, one of the bakers from Bar Tartine, help me knead the dough so I managed to produce stable noodles. Pretty happy with the result and it was a sell out night. Several reviews came out of SF Chronicle.   Here is the first one.

Gnocchis with Nettles in a Parmesan Broth

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Soba internship at Hosokawa

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (1)
Soba Master Hosokawa boiling soba noodles.

Doing an internship in a Michilen star restaurant is not easy.  Most chef look for someone young and eager. Not someone over fifty like me.   Hosokawa is a chef who is notorious for being a perfectionist, tough and uncompromising,  He has gone through a lot of apprentices but many don't last, and none of his three sons have followed his path.  But if put his disciplinarian style persona aside, Hosokawa serves the most elegant soba, edo-style.  100% milled and hand made on the premises of his small shop.  The buckwheat,  the vegetable, the eel andr oysters -are all personally selected carefully - he deals directly with farmers and fishermen and does not like going through middlemen.  His dipping sauces and soups are heavenly. His tempura is the considered better than tempura shops - crispy and light and always seasonal. i have been visiting Hosokawa's shop for years, every time I am in Japan I make a pilgrimage to his shop and go home enlightened.  But the only contact I had ever with him is his occasional audible yelling at one of the apprentices or calling out an order.  

But one day in July, a muggy hot day, I went to his shop in the early evening by myself to have a slurp of his soba and basically try as many dishes as I can manage.  When I got to the second dish of an eggplant served with miso, I couldn't help but ask if the eggplant was deep fried or barised. It was so sweet and tender, yet not greasy at all. The way the scallions and bell peppers adorned the dish was so lovely that I wanted to make conatct with the chef.  He suddenly appeared before me and came out of the kitchen personally to answer my question.  I was completely humbled. 

Hosokawa was much slimmer than the man I had seen in pictures, but there was the smile and the edokko style towel wrapped around his head. I learned later that he had been ill with intenstinal cancer and had been absent for sometime. He was slowly making a comeback when I went to the shop but in a short time, his assistant had ran away and was short of help. He seemed tired and needed to bounce his feelings to someone so willing  to listen like me.  I told him I live in Los Angeles and I love soba and I make soba.  He was interested in me and for the next 15 minutes, ( I was the last customer of the day), we had a conversation about soba - something that revealed who he was -  the artistry that he brought to each dish he created.  I knew that perhaps this is the moment to to ask if he would le me come to his kitchen and watch him make soba.  He said, sure. I had called him a number of times before to see if he would teach me soba but he was too busy back then that he had cancelled the workshop. I was delighted by the idea to watch him make soba - he asked me to call him
when I came back to Japan again, which I told him I would in December.

I called him the week before leaving for Japan. He answered the phone and remembered who I was. He invited me to come at 8am to his shop in Ryogoku. It would be an hour train ride from my parents' house in Shibuya.  I marked the date on my calendar. It was set for December 13, 2012.

I knew this experience was going to allow me to go back to the beginning and learn soba all over again.

Soba-to-go - A Summer Gig

Posted on August 13, 2012 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (3)
Summer Soba Salad 

The Summer of 2012 has been emotional and joyous   -  my son Sakae and BInah got married and my stepson Tyler and Emmalina had a baby.  It has also been physical and floury  - doing the noodle gig and getting slowly back into yoga.  My hands and clothes were crusted with flour all summer long.

The  fresh hand cut soba noodles are made for Cookbook in Echo Park and Ai restaurant in South Pasadena since May. I make the noodles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for delivery before 11am.  It is  like doing yoga in the morning.  I sometimes arrive late to my yoga class on my noodle making mornings and apologiz to Art, my yoga teacher. But he totally gets what I am doing.   "You don't even have to come to yoga, just make your noodles. That's yoga."   

I have had my good days and bad days with soba.  A hot dry day in Pasadena can ruin your soba noodles.  It happened a couple of times. I couldn't get the water ratio right (the dough came out too soft or too dry)and had to dump my dough in the compost bin and start all over again. This is not fun when you know you have 50 servings to make before 10 am.  Making noodles with a pasta machine would be the no brainer route but the whole practice is done by hand so there are no short cuts in soba.  Working with buckwheat is a humbling experience. Besides being delicious, that's one of the reasons what I love about soba. 

The noodles-to-go are uncooked.  There are two servings in a box. So there is some work involved for the cook.  It comes with dipping sauce and condiments. My idea was to let people try making fresh handcut soba noodles at home. Making the noodles have been a lot of work but the response has been very good.  My noodles at Cookbook almost always sell out.

To cook the noodles, simply boil them in a pot of lots of water as you would do pasta.  Drop the noodles gently in the boiling water and cook for 70-90 seconds. Scoop the noodles out of the boiling water with a strainer and then quickly rinse and massage them under cold water to remove the scum.  Shock them in ice cold water with lots of ice cubes (I use a bowlful) . Allow the noodles to soak in the ice water for about 5 seconds to firm them up. Finally,  drain the water thoroughly.  Water left on the noodles can affect the taste of the noodles so this step is important.  Serve the noodles immediately. Don't let them sit around. They start to get mushy and dry.

The soba noodles can be also be served like a salad.  Pile some chopped summer greens and veggies on top of the noodles.  Add the sauce with a drizzle of olive or truffle oil.  So yummy.   My summer gig at Cookbook will end in August.  I will continue making noodles for Ai.

A Good Day for Making Soba

Posted on July 1, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (1)

I like making soba in the morning when the humidity is higher than average.  Lately, we've been having very dry days in Los Angeles  For the first time since I began using a humidity gauge, it showed an icon of a sad face when the humidity dropped to below 30%. This apparently indicates  :("extreme dryness."    But today was a very good day for soba.  At 57%, the humidity level was just right.  I used 48% water ratio.  My practice was better than usual.  It was a good way to start because I had to theach more than a dozen students at JANM.  I knew I would have one round of fresh noodles for them that will probably taste pretty good. Practice makes perfect they say but I would add humidity to that when it comes to soba.

Cookbook Window Dressing

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Cookbook at Echo Park decorated their shop window with cookbooks. I love that they featured a make soba and fresh sob cookbook!  This summer, I am offering fresh take out soba and soba workshop at the shop.  It's a lot o work to get up early to make 40 servings of soba but I love delivering the noodles to Cookbook.  Owners, Marta and Rob inspire me with their good taste and good food.

Common Grains - Soba Salad

Posted on March 17, 2012 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (1)

I don't know who invented the soba salad but it's not the Japanese. Go to Wholefoods, Tavern, Real Food Daily,  M Cafe in LA - Soba salad is on their regular menu.   I can't get used to the idea of pre-seasoned soba noodles though.The Japanees tradition is to eat fresh soba plain and quickly with a dipping sauce before they go limp or eat soba in a hot soup.  The first time someone served me a soba salad, I was horrified.  But I have become more open to fusion. If pasta works, why not soba?  

During the Common Grains event, we decided to put soba salad on the menu, and people went for it.  But we did something slightly different with the dressing to maintain the quality of our fresh, handcut soba.

Fresh hand cut tartary soba noodles.
Flour: Anson Mills Tartary Soba blended with Kitawase Soba
Water ration: 48%
We went light on the salad dressing and used two instead on one dressing.  The oil based dressing was used with the leafy vegetables and the oil-less Dowari- sauce for the noodles.  This way, you can taste the noodles before they get masked with the salad dressing.

It's simple to make this salad.  Pour the Dowari dipping sauce over the cold noodles.  In a separate bowl,  toss the leafy greans with the oil based dressing, and serve the salad right on top of the noodles.  This presentation allows you to taste the texture and flavor of the soba before it gets tosed up with the seasoned leafy greens.  I sprinkled some deep fried buckwheat grouts on top on this salad.

Soba salad with leafy greens, avocado, kiwi, red radishes, cilantro
                                               and buckwheat groats.  

Here is a simple sesame dressing that I used for the leafy greens.
Creamy sesame dressing for Soba Salad 
(Makes 2 cups) 
1 cup grape seed oil or canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup Mori tsuyu dipping sauce or more to taste or use 1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbls sesame oil 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
3-4 Tbls Atari Goma (Japanese sesame paste)
1 tsp grated ginger juice
1Tsp sugar to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy.

Dowari dressing
Dilute Hongaeshi with 25% Dashi. Bring to a boil in a pot and
simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and
let cool.  Keeps in the fridge for a week.

KCRW Good Food

Posted on February 26, 2012 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)
Teaching soba at Tortoise, Venice.

I got to go on KCRW Good Food to talk with Evan Kleiman about making soba at home.
It was fun to talk about something I love doing so much with one of my favorite talk show hosts.
 It was a good thing for the Common Grains project, particularly soba.

Mitsuwa Marketplace - Soba Demonstration and Sales

Posted on January 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Today, we started Phase 3 of the project at Mitsuwa Marketplace.  We are doing soba demonstrations and sales of fresh soba there. An elderly gentleman came to watch us make soba. He wore a Dodgers baseball cap and a clean white shirt. His back was quite bent but he walked without a cane. He watched us making soba, had a tasting of soba, then another, and after that, he wanted to buy the take home soba.  But later, he came back to tell me that he didn't know the soba noodles were uncooked!  Yes, I explained to him that the noodles needed to be cooked at home. He said he lived alone and didn't think he could cook the noodles by himself. He seemed a little lost because he had already paid for the noodles.  I felt  bad for him so we made an exception and cooked the noodles for him. He was very happy.  It turns out that he is a 105 years old retired math teacher. He is a regular at Mitsuwa. His son (who is in his early 80s) brings him to a bus stop where he picks up the bus that brings him to the market every week.  He likes to hang out at the food court.  

He watched the soba demonstration with curiousity. He enjoyed talking about his family.  His wife passed away a couple of years ago at age 94. He said that his wife getting sick forced him to walk again because he had to go visit her at the hospital.  He thanks his "kachan" in heaven everyday for enabling him to walk again. Now he visits her at the cemetary every week.  He says walking and appreciating people are the way to longevity.  He has 55 grandchildren and some.  When the noodles were cooked, I packed it carefully in his back pack. He headed for the exit. I hope to see him again while we are at Mitsuwa.

Soba event at Breadbar Century City

Posted on January 16, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

She slurped it all!  

One of the main reasons why I got involved in the Common Grains project was to share my love for food and make new friends. The Common Grains soba event at Breadbar is doing just that. Every evening I am meeting new people and they all seem pretty happy with the soba.   We have another week to go at Breadbar and then we move to the next event. 

Some found out about us on the web.

This couple stopped by for soba on their way to the movies.
It was their first soba experience and love it!

She is eating the grilled onigiri.

Very happy slurpers.

Kanpai with sake!

This baby is getting a headstart with soba

The Bruin slurpers.  Anne's part of the Common Grains
creative team.
Karumude and her friend.

Buckwheat Farm visit - Mesa, Washington

Posted on September 24, 2011 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (1)

In the buckwheat fields of Pasco, WA

Last October, I visited the buckwheat farms in Pasco, East Washington during harvest time, and got to ride on a combine for the first time in my life. Here is a link to the story I wrote about the visit on Zester Daily.   This year, I visited Pasco in time to see the buckwheat fields in full bloom.  In a couple of weeks, the buckwheat will be harvested.  I visited Pasco with Mutsuko Souma, a Seattle based chef and soba maker, her husband Ken. Ken offered to be the designated driver and took us wine tasting in Walla Walla, which was the extra attraction during this trip.

Our first stop in East Washington was to see Al Pine, who was my generous host in Pasco when I did a soba workshop there with Akila Inouye, soba master last year.  Al who is tall Afro-American who looks more like a jazz musician than a Canola farmer, retired policeman. Al is interested in growing buckwheat but for the moment, he grows mainly canola.  Together with a wildlife botanist/landscaper Bill Mast, he contacted me about growing buckwheat when he read about the story on my search for buckwheat in the US in the Tri-Cities newspaper.  When he heard we were coming this time, Al got all excited. He said he spent 3 days cleaning house that hadn't been clean in 5 years.  "5 years," he exclaimed.  "5 years!" we exclaimed.  "That's what bachelorhood does to you." he says.  Al's house was decorated with lots of interesting art that he collected in China many years ago - one that struck me in particular was the Great Wall of China, inlaid in parts with mother of pearl. There was also a grand piano in the dining room. "Do you play?" I asked him. "I am going to start taking lessons," he answered with a smille. He made coffee and offered us chocolate chip cookies out  and apples he got from an apple farmer.  "Take as many as you like," he said. The apples tasted very sweet.  Later, Al took us out to lunch at the local grill where I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, Souma a BLT and Ken a hamburger in a hogie.

The buckwheat fields were beautiful.  Darrel said he recently took a family picture in another buckwheat field that were knee high with flowers.  He said it was a magnificent sight.  Darrel never gets tired of talking about buckwheat.  No wonder they call him Darrel buckwheat.  He is the real thing.

Darrel also showed us a maturer buckwheat field. When 75% of the seeds are brown and mature, it is ready for harvest.  He even offered me a job to come and help with the harvest.  "I will pay you minimum wage," he said, smiling.  Maybe next year, I said. He better be serious because I am.

Soba workshop with Tortoise Family

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (1)

  Humidity is  67% Good day for making soba!

Keiko and Taku Tsukamoto, the owners of Tortoise in Venice, and their staff have been very supportive of my cooking workshops, which began nearly two years ago.  I used to do them out of my house in Santa Monica but now I do many at  Tortoise' new adjunct gallery/workshop.  It' a beautiful space. 

Gathered here are the Tortoise staff and their families, some who were visiting from Japan.  We decided to make soba on Labor Day.  The store was closed so we had the use of the whole space. 

Soba is meditative.   It's also physical. I call it soba yoga.

Thomas is my workshop assistant.  He looks great with the tenugui wrapped around his head.  He loves food. He brought homemade pickles.  They were very good.

It's hard to believe that nobody had made soba before. Look at Tomoko's knife skills. People make udon noodles by hand but there is a myth that soba is difficult.  They learned that it's not the case.

The ingredients for making soba are just flour and water. Nothing more. You have to pay attention to the humidity factor, and how much water to add. Too much or too little is not good.  

The other trick is to make it quickly and combine the water and flour evenly.  If you take your time, the dough will dry out, and the noodles will fall apart.

Everyone's soba came out  nicely, in all shapes and sizes. Maybe a little on the thicker side, which means, they will take aboutr 4-5 minutes to cook.  We tasted them all.  

Shuko, Sachi and Sumi washing the bowls. This can be an image of a modern day woodblock print.

The head scarfs - tenugui are quite colorfu and attractive.

Tomoko's husband is trying the professional soba knife. No sweat.

Sachi wears her mother's embroidered apron. Her mother wants her to wear more girly clothes but she prefers the funky chick look. 

Someone's soba. Looks pretty good.

We did a pot luck. I made kinpira gobo.  Shuko made eggplant with white paste. Sachi made a plate of crudite with miso dip. Sumi's mother made sushi. I also made hot duck soba.  It was all very good. The best part was that we got to know each other better.   

Edible rosette windows.

And homemade Soba!  It can't get better than this.