This may be a month too late but it’s still a very fond memory to me. I started my new year the same time as the Japanese and this year, in the spirit of my love for noodles, I had my first Toshikoshi Soba. 年 越し蕎麦 (toshi koshi soba) may look just like your regular soba dish but it actually represents the ending of the year and the start of the new. Japanese would usually have a bowl of soba the minute midnight strikes. It’s similar to how Filipinos should have pancit. The toshikoshi soba’s a symbol of longevity that we may endure the coming year.
I’ve heard that many people eat their soba in many ways during the new year but in the Sugawara household, they have their soba cold. And I’m not complaining. I’ve always been in love with zarusoba, and I must admit that it is one of my top five favorite noodles. It’s one of the few dishes when you really enjoy the noodle itself. The dipping sauce is merely just a flavorful accent. The star of this dish is the noodle.
I was fortunate to taste two kinds of noodles, one was buckwheat and the other was green tea. The cold soba was dipped in its dipping sauce and even if I was stuffed from our lovely dinner, I must say this dish, cold as it was to my tongue, was very hearty and delicious. They were indulging enough to let me have some wasabi with my soba and as I sipped the sauce along with the noodle, the scent of the flour wafted through my nose that burn of the wasabi was tertiary to the earthiness of the soba. It was fantastic and very humbling.
When I thought it was all over, Mrs. Sugawara taught me that there’s one more way to enjoy soba. With my leftover dipping sauce, she advised me to ladle some leftover sobayu (the water used to boil the soba) into my dish, mixing the broth with the left over sauce. The marriage was a warm soup with the flavors of the noodle and a hint of soy from the left over sauce. It was a perfect way to finish my toshikoshi soba, as if saying that the next year would be a mix of things hot and cold, of things unbearable and pleasant, of things that might not come easy but if I really sit back and appreciate these things at its core, I’m sure to learn something amazing.