Sonoko Sakai, author of Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors, shares her technique.

By Bridget Hallinan
Updated January 28, 2020

While fresh soba noodles are often thought to be difficult to make, Sonoko Sakai—food writer and author of Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors—is here to dispel that myth.

In a new “The Best Way” video for Food & Wine, she breaks down her step-by-step guide to preparing the noodles, from kneading the dough to properly enjoying them once they’re cooked. The simple recipe, comprised of just water and flour, does require a lot of attention—but in the end, you get rewarded with a beautiful product. Read on for Sonoko’s key tips.

1. First, the ingredients

The recipe for soba noodles is incredibly simple—all you need is buckwheat flour, a little bit of all-purpose flour, and some water. Start by sifting the two flours together into a bowl, and then gradually pour in the water.  

2. Wax on, wax off

Toss the ingredients with your hands to mix them together. Then, Sonoko says it’s time to “wax on, wax off,” aka the circular hand motion that Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel in The Karate Kid. This helps the dough form into balls—nothing sticks to the bowl because there’s not much gluten in the dough, she notes—which you then work to combine into one big mass.

3. Knead the dough

Once the dough is incorporated, place it on a flat work surface and start kneading. Sonoko jokes that it’s a great workout, since she came out of 12-week program in Japan with “incredible triceps.”

4. Make a square

Flatten the dough to form a circular patty. Using a rolling pin, put your hands on the dough and flip it over the pin, thinning it out and shaping it roughly into a square. Try to eyeball it and shape the dough so it has four clean corners.

5. Cut the noodles

Take the dough and fold it in half, and then in half again, flattening entirely. Cut the dough into thin noodle rows—Sonoko says you can find a rhythm, almost like the sound of horse-trotting. Trim the ends once they’re done, and shake off any excess flour.

6. Cook and garnish

Once you’re ready to eat, cook the noodles on the stove. To serve, Sonoko puts them in a hot soup with mushrooms—a basic dashi, she says—and then finishes the dish with scallions and yuzu.

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