A little later than usual this month, our how-to gives you some tips on cooking 100% buckwheat (aka soba) noodles to perfection. Soba noodles are delicately-flavoured and gluten free; an interesting change from rice or wheat noodles. Cooking them correctly is something I learned the hard way -so you don't have to!
My very first batch had to be thrown away (and we almost never do that) as the noodles had become so sticky that they resembled a giant ball of chewing gum! There was really nothing that could be done to save them. It's important to read the general directions on the packet, as brands do vary. We use King Soba brand, but even then the cooking time can vary slightly from batch to batch, so be flexible about timing and keep an eye on what's going on.
- I recommend leaving cooking your noodles until last; that way you can give them the attention which they deserve.
- Put plenty of water in the pan, as you would for pasta. This helps prevent sticking.
- Ensure the water is boiling before the noodles go in.
- Stir immediately to stop them sticking together, and stir again from time to time. You may see white "clouds" in the water as excess starch comes off.
- Once the noodles are in the pot, turn the heat right down or even off to avoid overcooking them.
- They only take a few minutes to soften, so keep watching, stirring, trying...
- When they are soft, remove from the heat and rinse in cold water straight away. This is really important to avoid ending up with a sticky mess.
- If you overcook them, they will either break up, become really sticky and clump together, or both. If this starts to happen, sometimes repeated rinsing in cold water while very gently separating them can save them- but all too often it's too late.
- Remember soba noodles are really designed to be eaten cold and dressed. They may become a little sticky again if you let them stand, but another gentle cold water rinse should sort them out.
- They are now ready to add to broths (at the last minute) or to soak up a dressing to make them even more delicious! If you must re-heat them, then try immersing them briefly in very hot water and draining- but you must serve them straight away after this. (They may start to break into short pieces if overheated.)