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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogSoba for the New Year: Toshikoshi Soba!

Soba for the New Year: Toshikoshi Soba!

Devon Lord-MoncriefDevon Lord-Moncrief
Published Time
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January 05, 2024
A bowl of toshikoshi soba.

Is there a better way to celebrate the New Year than by enjoying a delicious bowl of steaming hot soba? We don’t think so! One of Japan’s tastiest New Year’s traditions is known as toshikoshi soba, a unique bowl of noodles that countless people across Japan love.

An excellent means to bring good luck to a new year, this unique dish is an easy and affordable dish that anyone can make. There are multiple varieties of toshikoshi soba to enjoy throughout Japan, so come and learn about this delicious New Year’s dish!

What is soba?

Soba noodles are thin noodles made from buckwheat used in Japanese cuisine. Primarily used in soup-based dishes similar to ramen and udon, soba is a versatile noodle that compliments many hot dishes. Different from other noodle varieties, this kind is not made from wheat, despite how misleading the name of its primary ingredient may be. 

A bowl of buckwheat noodles with tempura, fish cake and Japanese mustard spinach.
This is a traditional New Year’s Eve meal. Image via Shutterstock

Buckwheat is not related to wheat but to sorrel and rhubarb and is classified as a pseudocereal. As such, this variety of noodles has a distinctive color, look, texture, and flavor, allowing it to stand apart from other noodle dishes.

Moreover, buckwheat is highly nutritious as it is packed with proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and is easily digestible. So not only is it a delicious meal in its own right, but it’s also made from a great rice and gluten alternative.

What makes toshikoshi soba unique?

Toshikoshi soba (year-crossing soba) is a unique Japanese dish representing good luck and perseverance for the upcoming new year. Traditionally, it is eaten plainly with nothing more than noodles, dashi stock, and diced green onions as garnish.

A slice of fish in bowl of noodles.
You can also use fish instead. Image via Shutterstock

Adding more ingredients is possible and acceptable, but the original dish is simple. Eating this meal with meat-based proteins or without is possible, making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Toshikoshi soba is eaten on New Year’s Eve. As people enjoy their meal, they reflect on the past year and what may lie ahead for them in the following year. Eating this New Year’s meal is thought to help bring more good luck to those who dine on it. 

A bowl of buckwheat noodles with fish cakes.
Making soba noodles is very easy! Image via Shutterstock

This is attributed to the special noodles made from buckwheat, a highly durable and resilient plant. It is believed that the resilience of the buckwheat can be transferred to the person consuming it. Naturally, eating it on New Year’s Eve is the best time of the year to have some good luck passed your way!

How do you make toshikoshi soba?

Homemade toshikoshi soba is incredibly easy and doesn’t take very much time. The primary ingredients for any good noodle dish are a good soup stock, the noodles, and the toppings. For toshikoshi soba, the dashi is made first by simmering a piece of konbu (seaweed) until it comes close to a boil. Remove the seaweed and save it for another recipe if you’d like. 

A bowl of toshikoshi soba on a black tray.
Tempura shrimp is the standout ingredient in this dish! Image via Shutterstock

Add 1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) to the water and let simmer for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow the katsuobushi to sit for 10 minutes more. Drain the stock and save the katsuobushi if you want. Add sake, mirin, soy sauce, and salt to the stock and bring it back to a boil. While the stock is simmering, dice green onions to the amount desired and set aside. 

Finally, cook the noodles as directed and drain. In a bowl, add the noodles, enough stock to cover them, and then top with the green onions. And that’s it! In short, make a well-flavored dashi by cooking konbu and then bonito flakes. Add sake, mirin, soy sauce, and salt to the stock. Cook noodles, add stock, and top with sliced green onions.

Why should I try these noodles for the New Year?

New Year’s Eve is a time for excitement, family, and fresh starts. It’s the time of the year to let all of the past hardships, poor luck, and problems fall behind us. If getting some good luck for the New Year is as simple as eating hot noodles, then there’s no reason not to.

A bowl of buckwheat noodles, with tempura and green onions.
Have you ever had toshikoshi soba before? Image via Shutterstock

Not only are they delicious in their original recipe, but they’re also versatile enough to be made for those with vegan diets, too, with a simple omission of the bonito flakes. Of Japan’s many traditions and celebrations for bringing in the New Year, few are as tasty as a bowl of hot noodles.

Have you had toshikoshi soba before? Did you have the plain and original variety, or did you spice it up a bit? Did it bring you good luck throughout the year? Feel free to tell us in the comments below! We’d love to hear about how your bowl of noodles brought in good luck for you!

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