Tokyo Photos & Soba Water Recipe

Photos from Tokyo and a what to do with the water you boil your soba noodles in - soba yu.

Tokyo Photos & Soba Water

I didn't take many photographs on my recent trip to Tokyo - 100, or so? As I was browsing them on the flight home it was clear that a good percentage were of the view from our hotel room thirty floors above Ginza. Spending a week in the sky made me understand why one would want to live in a high-rise, something I've never given much thought before now. The huge windows framed the horizon and cityscape, and the colors, reflections, and mood changed by the minute depending on the weather, time of day, and how the light was progressing. I wanted to share a few snapshots today, and also one of my favorite things to eat in Tokyo. Sip, is actually the better verb. It's something so simple, it doesn't require a recipe, but I suspect few of you have enjoyed it - Soba Yu.

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I was in Tokyo to finish up a few details related to Near & Far, and for a few meetings with people related to new products for QUITOKEETO. In between, there was time to layer sweaters, coat, and handsocks and wander around neighborhoods like Daikanyama, Omotesandō, Nakameguro, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and others.

I just updated my Tokyo travel list with a few places I loved, new to me, or new to Tokyo since the last time I was there. Thanks to tips from friends (thank you Matt, thank you Julie), we ate extra well, and made new friends.

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One morning we rode the train from Tokyo out to the coastal town of Kamakura. We strolled around a bit, and not long after, we came across this (above/below). A man making soba behind a window on a side street not far from the train station. As someone who has yet to master the art of the soba noodle, watching the long, instinctive process of someone masterfully producing the noodles was riveting. We lined up outside, waited our turn, and then wedged our American frames into the small structure for plates of zaru soba - cold soba with shredded nori. The meal was finished with a pot of one of my favorite things - soba-yu. Soba-yu is the water left behind from cooking soba noodles, the water the noodles are boiled in. It is served toward the end of the meal, after one has finished eating their soba noodles. Your pour the soba water directly into the bowl holding your dipping sauce (which should be nearly finished at this point), it combines with the dipping sauce to create a nourishing, seasoned broth. I also love to add whatever else is still lingering around - grated ginger, wasabi, shichimi-togarashi spice, green onions, etc. I'll write slightly more detailed instructions below, but that is the jist of it. It makes me glow from the inside, and (not even kidding about this) leaves me feeling extra-positive. More than anything, this is encouragement to enjoy a cup the next time you make any sort of soba-based recipe.

Tokyo Photos

We also caught the this flea market which happens once or twice a month. I love the care the sellers put into displaying their wares, have a look below. Everything was meticulously priced, and arranged so you could appreciate each item individually :)

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The view from our hotel the last night.

Tokyo Photos

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Soba Yu

More than a recipe, this is an encouragement, or, even better, a reminder, to enjoy the nourishing cooking water left over after boiling soba noodles. Add it to a cup or bowl along with a good splash of whatever soba dipping sauce is on the table. Alternately, you can season it with a splash of shoyu or soy sauce. Beyond that, I like to add shichimi togarashi spices, a bit of grated ginger and/or wasabi, and whatever slivered scallions might be around.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

Beautiful pictures! Soba yu has long been one of my favorite comfort foods. I can only imagine how good it must be when the soba has been freshly made!

A.

Aloha Heidi, Thank you for sharing your photos and experience. I wish I could have introduced you to my friends in Tokyo (I moved back to Honolulu 2 years ago) at restaurants and such. Please do let me know when you travel again! All the best, Lyle

Lyle Fujikawa

I was in Shanghai a few years ago and your photos reminded me of how pleasant it was to live amongst the clouds. I also recall eating a noodle every morning for breakfast, which was served with a bok choy, broccoli rabe or spinach. Fabulous pics!!!

Kathleen

I will always have a fierce love for Japan as it was my first foreign travel experience. I was a young college kid so sadly, I didn't make very good notes on locales and such so it's on my bucket list to make it back one day and do it "right". Your images are stunning, have you ever considered selling prints of your photos???

Jaclyn

such a gorgeous place to and stay i have loved Tokyo and i wish to be there someday,its nice indeed.

judy moraa

Oh this makes me feel so natsukashii for Japan. I've only seen Tokyo from the ground level. I love this new birds-eye view. xo

Lori Narlock

More wonderful than usual, as usual. Tx, TOBV

Thelma O'Brien

My husband and I lived in a high rise in Chicago when we were in our twenties. The views, colors, and moods that the city gifted us with were incredible. Your pictures are beautiful. Soba Yu sounds like it nourishes the soul as well as the body.

Linda @ Veganosity

Wonderful timing! We are in Japan now, visiting our son and caring for our two-year-old grandson... We've had soba yu twice, now, and were taking about it at dinner last night. We're taking the train into Tokyo today, to Ueno. There is a place near the park with the best tempura, ever. Hope we can get in. (: Loved reading your thoughts about soba yu and seeing your view of Tokyo from above.

Carola

Beautiful images as usual! Can't WAIT for the new book and will definitely be pre-ordering (hurry up September!). What is the digital camera that you used on this trip?,

HS: Hi KC, I used the Sony a7R with full-frame sensor, and my old Leica lenses (mounted with an adapter)...Its my favorite digital travel camera set-up.

KC

Do you use cannabis seeds in your shichimi togarashi?

Kellen Ferkey

It's almost impossible to find vegetarian Japanese food made without katsubushi dashi (bonito broth). You always have to ask, even in dishes that proclaim to be vegetarian. So I can enjoy teuchi (hand made) noodles, I carry my own tsuyu (broth) base or just make one with soy sauce and yakumi (the noodle accompaniments) and ask for either cold water or soba yu, depending in the season. As an alternative to Japanese food, I've had the best Italian food anywhere there, as well as wonderful Indian food.

Francesca

I can't believe you only took a handful of photos and they've all come out so perfectly! I've just booked a trip to Japan for later in the year, looking forward to reading through your "places I love" list now :)

Jess

I had soba noodles for breakfast this morning - Tokyo did that to me! Japanese breakfasts are so nourishing, savoury and delicious. Delish!

Sally @ The Fit Foodie

That mysterious looking large pink phone. Was it a pay phone in the hotel room? I love the photo composition!

HS: Hi Andrea - it was in a coffee shop :)

Andrea

Beautiful, Heidi. Once again, great timing with the recipe for me too ... I've got soba on the menu tomorrow night. xo

Lia Huber

Oh, Tokyo....sigh. I first encountered the pleasures of drinking noodle or pasta cooking water on my thruhike of the John Muir Trail in 2008. We were camped next to a full PCT thruhiker who flew into a panic when he saw us starting to pour off the cooking water from our macaroni. We poured it into his coffee mug instead and watched him happily sip the warm, savory broth. We do the same now, and I am looking forward to enjoying it on my own upcoming PCT thruhike this summer! Arigato Heidi!

Kristin

This is the second time in as many weeks that I have seen the pasta water put to use. The first was adding pasta water to the tomato sauce for the pasta sauce. Now this. It reminds me to think about how I use the water for boiling, as well as steaming. I once worked in a kitchen were we all vied for a glass of the remaining water over which beets, broccoli, etc. were steamed. Delicious and full of nutrition.

janjamm

Oh, Tokyo....sigh. I first encountered the pleasures of drinking noodle or pasta cooking water on my thruhike of the John Muir Trail in 2008. We were camped next to a full PCT thruhiker who flew into a panic when he saw us starting to pour off the cooking water from our macaroni. We poured it into his coffee mug instead and watched him happily sip the warm, savory broth. We do the same now, and I am looking forward to enjoying it on my own upcoming PCT thruhike this summer! Arigato Heidi!

Kristin

I've never tried soba yu, but you had me at "feeling glowing from the inside and positive". Sign me up ! I'm going to make some of that right now, I'm stocked on soba noodles so it is meant to be ! Namaste !

Ciao Florentina

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