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Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles) ざるそば • Just One Cookbook

Light and refreshing, Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles) will be your summer go-to staple. 10-minute is all you need to whip up this delicious noodle dish.

Two kinds of soba noodles served on a Japanese bamboo, garnished with shredded nori sheet.

Is there any specific hot-weather food that you enjoy in your culture? In Japan, during the unbearable hot and humid summer, the classic cold Japanese noodle, Zaru Soba (ざるそば) is the perfect dish to cool down!

What is Zaru Soba?

Zaru Soba is a chilled noodle dish made from buckwheat flour and served with soy sauce-based dipping sauce called Tsuyu (つゆ).

The word zaru means “a strainer” in Japanese and the name of the dish was derived from the way the noodles are served over a bamboo strainer during the Edo Period.

In today’s recipe, I share how to make the homemade dipping sauce, Mentsuyu (noodle soup base), but you can buy a bottle of Mentsuyu in Japanese or Asian grocery store to save time.

How To Make Zaru Soba ざるそばの作り方

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Types of Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)

There are different varieties of soba noodles in Japan, but the primary differences are texture and flavors.

The Ratio of Buckwheat Flour

  • Ju-wari Soba (十割そば) is made of 100% buckwheat flour. It has a dry and rough texture so the noodles are easily broken. Ju-wari soba has a strong buckwheat aroma and flavor, and it can be hard to make because of the dry and crumbly texture.
  • Hachi-wari Soba (八割そば) is made from 80% buckwheat flour and 20% wheat flour. Hachi-wari means 80% in Japanese. The noodle is much smoother and it has an al dente texture. Unlike Ju-wari Soba, it’s easy to swallow and chew. However, the buckwheat aroma is less pronounced than Ju-wari.

It’s hard to say which soba is tastier and more delicious; it really depends on personal preference!

Different Flavors for Buckwheat Noodles

You might have seen packages of green or pink soba noodles in Japanese grocery stores.

  • Green Tea Soba (Cha Soba, 茶そば) – The noodles are flavored with a small amount of green tea powder to give a subtle green tea taste and green color.
  • Ume Plum Soba (Ume Soba, 梅そば) – The noodles are flavored with Japanese ume plum and have a slight pink color.

Two kinds of soba noodles served on a Japanese bamboo, garnished with shredded nori sheet.

How To Eat Soba Noodles

Zaru soba is unquestionably a simple dish, but we do have a protocol on how to eat the noodles. 

First, combine 1 part of cooled dipping sauce and 3 parts of iced water in a serving pitcher.

At the table, place the pitcher of dipping sauce and small dishes that contains chopped green onions and grated wasabi. Each person has a plate of soba noodles and a small bowl or cup for dipping sauce.

Serve yourself the dipping sauce in the small bowl/cup and add some condiments of your choice such as green onion and wasabi. Then pick up some soba noodles, dip in the dipping sauce briefly, and slurp the noodles. The dipping sauce is salty, so don’t soak the noodles in the sauce for a long time.

When you’re done with the noodles, you can pour the reserved sobayu (そば湯) – soba cooking water – to the rest of your dipping sauce in the bowl/cup and enjoy it as a soup broth.

Shrimp and vegetable tempura on a plate along with the dipping sauce.

Serve Zaru Soba with Tempura

At soba or udon noodle shops, it’s very common to serve the noodles with tempura. When we serve Zaru Soba with Tempura, we call the dish Tenzaru (天ざる).

My mom usually serves Zaru Soba with Vegetable Tempura and Shrimp Tempura. Zaru Soba is a perfect summer dish, but when it’s scorching hot outside, who wants to deep fry and make Tempura? 😛

But if you’re up for a full meal, fry up some tempura to accompany your Zaru Soba!

Two kinds of soba noodles served on a Japanese bamboo, garnished with shredded nori sheet.

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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Zaru Soba (Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Dipping Sauce) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Light and refreshing, Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles) will be your summer go-to staple. 10-minute is all you need to whip up this delicious noodle dish.

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Japanese

Keyword: cold noodle, soba noodles

Servings: 4

Author: Nami

Mentsuyu (Noodle Soup Base/Dipping Sauce): Makes 1 cup concentrated sauce

  1. Gather all the ingredients.

    Zaru Soba Ingredients

To Make Dipping Sauce (makes 1 cup concentrated sauce):

  1. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup sake and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the alcohol evaporates for a few seconds.

    Zaru Soba New 1
  2. Add ½ cup soy sauce and ½ cup mirin (I add + 1 Tbsp mirin for my family’s preference).

    Zaru Soba New 2
  3. Add 1 x 1 inch (2.5 x 2.5 cm) kombu and 1 cup dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi).

    Zaru Soba New 3
  4. Bring it to a boil and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside until it cools down. Strain the sauce and set aside. You can keep the sauce in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

    Zaru Soba New 4

To Boil Soba Noodles:

  1. Boil a lot of water in a large pot. Unlike pasta, you DO NOT add salt to the water. Add dried soba noodles in the boiling water in a circulate motion, separating the noodles from each other. Cook soba noodles according to the package instructions (each brand is slightly different). Stir the noodles once in a while so they don’t stick to each other. Check the tenderness and do not overcook. Before you drain, reserve 1 to 1 ½ cup of soba cooking water “Sobayu” (Read what you can use this in the blog post).

    Zaru Soba New 5
  2. Drain the soba noodles into the sieve and rinse the noodles to get rid of starch under running cold water. This is a very important step.

    Zaru Soba New 6
  3. Shake off the sieve to drain completely and transfer the noodles to the iced water in a large bowl. Set aside until the noodles are cool.

    Zaru Soba New 7
  4. To serve the noodles, place a bamboo sieve or mat over a plate (to catch water from noodles). Put soba noodles and garnish shredded nori sheet on top.

    Zaru Soba New 8

To Serve:

  1. To make the dipping sauce, combine 1 part of cooled dipping sauce and 3 parts of iced water in a serving pitcher or small individual bowls (sauce: water = 1:3). Check the taste. If it’s salty, add more water. If it’s diluted, add more sauce.

    Zaru Soba New 9
  2. Put chopped green onions and wasabi on a small plate and serve with the soba noodles.

    Zaru Soba New 10

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

Editor’s Note: The post was originally published in August 2011. It’s been updated with new images and the video in July 2016. The post has been updated and republished in July 2020.




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