Eating toshikoshi-soba, or year-end noodles, on the last night of the year is an 800-year-old tradition in Japan, which sees out the old year (an specifically any misfortunes that came with it). The buckwheat noodles used symbolise a number fo things, including
a long and peaceful life, resiliency, and wealth. Eating them before midnight on the last day of the year encourages a good start for the upcoming year.
Special thanks to my friend (and fellow food blogging pioneer) Kat Oshiro Nishida for her assistance with the original article.
1.25 L water 2-3 5 cm pieces of kombu (also known as sea tangle) 1 cup loosely packed dried bonito flakes 70 ml (4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) light soy sauce 70 ml (4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) mirin 70 ml (4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) sake 4 bundles (400 g, total weight) soba noodles (buckwheat noodles), cooked to 30 seconds to a minute less than indicated on packet instructions, drained 3 to 4 green onions, finely sliced (green and white parts)
sliced kamaboko (cured and steamed fish cake) shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) kakiage (a light tempura fritter)
Start by making dashi:
Heat water and kombu over a medium flame. Just before it comes to a rolling boil, remove the kombu, otherwise the broth may be bitter or slimy. Add bonito flakes and bring to a rapid simmer.Simmer for about 1 minute, then remove the pan the hob and let the bonito steep for 5 minutes before straining. !For the toshikoshi broth: Add water enough to the dashi water to measure 1200 ml. Return the dashi to the pot and add soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, divide the soba noodles between four bowls and pour the hot broth overtop. Sprinkle with green onions and other toppings, if using.
To make this a vegetarian dish, use 1200 ml of shiitake mushroom stock instead of the dashi made with kombu and bonito.
What’s a spoon or a cup?
A version of this recipe appeared in my World of Food column for Grand Magazine (November-December 2018).
This recipe was mentioned as part of my appearance on CBC-KW’s Sounds of the Season, 2019.