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Mar 5, 2008 11:29 PM

SD Japanese noodles

I did a really fun class at Great News with Mineko this week on Japanese noodles. When asked where she goes for noodles, she replied (astounded) "my house". She recommended nothing! But I know you know some great places. We did somen, flat noodles (like fettucine) and udon recipes. I am loving it but would like to try even more varieties....

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  1. Well there's not too many Japanese noodles that I'm aware of. On top of what you've already mentioned, there's soba, which is a buckwheat noodle, there's harusame, which is a clear cellophane noodle, and one might also include "noodles" made out of konyaku, or devil's root starch.

    By the way did Haneko mention nagashi somen? It's an interesting practice, done outside with large groups, and is especiallly fun for the kids. In nagashi somen, or flowing somen, open troughs of split bamboo are used with a stream of water to deliver somen to the guests. Diners simply grab the noodles with their chopsticks as it flows in front of them.

    There's no outstanding place for soba in S.D. As Haneko says, you probably are much better off making it at home. Lately there has been available in the Japanese stores both towari and ni-hachi soba. Towari is the elusive, and very difficult to make due to the lack of sufficient gluten in the buckwheat grain, 100% soba flour soba. Ni-hachi soba is made up of 80% soba flour and 20% regular flour. Conventional soba noodles are made with much lower percentages of soba flour due to the lack of binding strength in soba flour.

    I don't know of anyplace that makes handmade soba in S.D., but there's nothing quite like freshly made soba. (There's a saying in Japanese that soba-ko [soba flour] "catches cold". And hence the best soba shops grinds their soba all at once in the morning, and shops some even go to the extent of grinding the flour to order.) And there's a certain texture that results from noodles cut by hand that's incomparable to machine made.

    For udon we actually have available to us teuchi (handmade) udon. That can be had at Yumeya, the roadside izakaya in Leucadia off of the coast highway. The father of this family-run restaurant used to run an udon shop in Japan, and still makes his udon for the restaurant by hand. The texture, as you can imagine, is incomparable to store-bought. You can get their teuchi udon in, of course, their udon, but also in their sukiyaki.

    Ramen is not really a Japanese noodle, but an adaptation of a Chinese noodle. However it's become its own cuisine separate from its Chinese origins. Though Tajima right now is the best S.D. ramen shop, their noodles can stand much improvement. However this month Santouka Ramen is expected to open up in the small food court in Mitsuwa Marketplace.

    Hope this helps some...

    6 Replies
    1. re: cgfan

      cgfan, on the topic of handmade/homemade soba, have you been to either Taiko in W. LA or Soba-Ya in the East Village in NYC?

      1. re: daantaat

        I've been to Soba-ya on a number of occasions, though not to Taiko. The only place I've had teuchi soba in L.A. was at Ubon, (Nobu backwards), his casual eatery in the Beverly Center. How is Taiko, and where is it located?

        I sure wish there were some more options in S.D. I remember seeing a sign once at Ichiro's in KM about featuring teuchi soba and udon, but my suspicion got the better of me and I ended up not ordering it. (Teuchi udon AND soba at a shokudo/family restaurant?) Anyone have any more information on Ichiro's teuchi soba and udon?

        1. re: cgfan

          Taiko has 2 locations, Brentwood and El Segundo. We've mostly been to the Brentwood location and the El Segundo one once. The RB one wasn't as good. The Brentwood location is on the same street as The Cheesecake Factory and there's a BCBG store in the same plaza.

          11677 San Vicente Blvd.
          Suite 302
          Brentwood, CA 90049

          I am nowhere near an expert on Japanese food like you, but thought the soba was very good. I really like the daikon and salmon roe soba. We've also had other things on the menu. My faves include shishito peppers and tempura shiitake. I remember having a chirashi donburi that was really good, although I can't remember it clearly enough to give a detailed comparison to Sakura's. They rotate part of their menu weekly/daily. Sorry I can't give more detail. We haven't been to LA for a while. I am curious how you'd find it.

          re: Soba-ya, have you ever had their marinated tuna donburi? I cannot remember the name of it for the life of me and have been searching for it on the West Coast.

          1. re: daantaat

            daantaat: Regarding the tuna donburi, it was probably a tekka-don(buri) that you saw on the menu. I don't recall having it there, but it should be relatively easy to find.

            The area around soba-ya's a very interesting one for me. There's so much nearby in the area of Japanese food, such as Otafuku (takoyaki and okonomiyaki), Momofuku, Shabu-Tatsu, Chikalicious and Rai Rai Ken. I'm sure there's a lot more, but that's what I remember seeing from my last visit late last year. If only there was a similar density of specialty Japanese eateries in S.D., I'd be set!

            1. re: cgfan

              cgfan, it was a tekka-don but it was not straight sashimi style tuna on rice. It was marinated in what I suspect was shoyu, rice wine and something else b/c I distinctly remember they had fresh tekka-don and this marinated version on the menu. I've described it at Sakura (and looked for it at Sushi Ota and Edo Sushi) and they said "it must have been their own version," which is entirely possible. Then again, I wonder if it isn't.

      2. Nijiya Market

        I read your query and assume you want to purchase some to cook at home.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cathy

          Actually, I was hoping for a restaurant to go and eat them. I made two of her recipes last night at home and they were great (got them at Nijiya).

        2. Chopstix in the Kearny Mesa area has decent soba IMO. Udon is good. Not sure if it's hand-made though, I'll have to ask next time I go.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JerrySD

            Their udon and soba are not handmade. Fresh soba vs dried soba is like eating fresh pasta vs dried. You can feel the difference.

            1. Any news on Santuoka at Mitsuwa?