Ever seen these brown noodles in the stores or the word "soba" on the menu of your favorite Japanese restaurant? (You'll usually see it on there as yakisoba-- but yakisoba noodles aren't the same as soba noodles! Those noodles are typically made out of wheat instead.) There's plenty types of soba beyond this.

Okay, but what is soba?

Soba or そば means "buckwheat" which is, as you guessed, what these noodles are typically made out of. However having 100% buckwheat causes these noodles to get brittle, so most people usually make them with a small amount of wheat flour.

There's a huge variety of dishes made with soba, but here's some that you might be able to find or even make at home!

Popular soba dishes:

Zaru Soba - Usually served cold, this is the most basic way to prepare soba. Usually when one thinks of soba, their mind goes to this first. It's a classic and simply showcases the appeal of the noodles-- chilled soba with nori (thin seaweed) on top and served with tsuyu (a dipping sauce made out of soup stock, water, and mirin). When first making your foray into the world of soba, this is a great place to start! 

Kitsune Soba - These would usually be served hot in a hot clear broth that's similar to the tsuyu described earlier-- it's just less saturated and easier to drink. What gives kitsune soba its name is the aburaage (fried tofu) on top-- in Japanese folklore, the fox spirits (kitsune) were fond of fried tofu.

Toshikoshi Soba - Special "year crossing" soba only eaten during New Year's Eve. They are a symbol of longevity which is why the Japanese slurp this down on New Year's eve.

There are plenty more besides these listed here, and it'll depend on the availability  at any of your local restaurants on which to try. Of course, you can always try making these soba dishes are your own!

Check here for more types of soba dishes and also even region-specific soba in Japan.

Where can I get soba?

In Boston, there's plenty places to hit up to try out soba for the first time or to get your soba fix. I personally haven't hit up all the places yet, but a good place to start is Bon Me. On their menu they have the option to create your own rice or noodle bowl with salad, so I recommend starting there.

If you're willing to go for a more authentic option, Sugidama Soba & Ikazaya in Davis Square is delicious with even more types of soba dishes.

Uni Soba - Cold soba with uni (sea urchin) with ikura (red caviar or salmon eggs).

Pork Kimchi Dip Soba - Cold soba served with a hot pork kimchi broth you can dip the noodles into. It's delicious, and perfect for the weather!

Ebi Kakiage Soba - Hot soba in broth served with ebi (shrimp) tempura and kakiage (shredded vegetables). Great for the weather and fans of tempura!

Can I buy instant soba?

It exists, but it's pretty uncommon since people prefer ramen and udon. (Those noodles are great too and have their own charms!) Soba isn't too hard to prepare, however, since you can just make zaru soba.

Is soba healthier than other types of noodles?

It's a great alternative to wheat noodles, since buckwheat is gluten-free. Buckwheat is shown to have a lot of health benefits, according to the Whole Grains Council.

Wanna know about more noodles originating from Asia? You can check out this Guide To Asian Noodles here.