Alden Boon

Deep-fried Soba the Highlight at Soba Specialist Nadai FujiSoba Ni-hachi

13/05/2018

Mention “soba” and one immediately thinks of Japan, bustling streets lined with traditional restaurants and stalls purveying sushi, okonomiyaki, takoyaki and the like, a sleepless cadence of clanging utensils, billowing steam and scurrying waitstaff. But the origin of soba is traced back to China, the primordial version a type of porridge that fuelled Chinese Buddhists while they were on those long enduring journeys. The Buddhists brought soba into Japan, and the Japanese transmuted the version by using buckwheat grains in lieu of rice, hulling and steaming them.

It is said that circa the Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333), a Buddhist temple fed the hungry people soba noodles on the last day of the year, thus birthing the culture of eating soba on New Year’s Eve. The buckwheat grain’s triangular (mikado) shape symbolised the power of the Emperor (named also mikado). With the proliferation of stone-grinding mills, the grains were ground into flour and then made into sobagaki, a kind of cooked dough with the consistency of soft mochi. Around the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), soba kiri — which means cut soba, the version that we know today — was developed in Nagano Prefecture, and rising in popularity it became a staple in Japan.

Fact: Any food that the Japanese touch turns to gold. Washoku, a collective term for Japanese cuisine, was designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013, and soba alongside kaiseki cuisine, tofu, sushi, tempura, just to name a few, is a part of this esteemed roster.  Soba comprises only two ingredients: flour and water, its simplicity belying an intricate process that is both an art and science. The dry ingredient is sifted into konebachi, a lacquered kneading bowl, and water is added gradually to it, a step known as mizumawashi. The swirling motions of mixing and kneading distribute water within the cells of the flour quickly. Soba is most popularly made ni-hachi style, which calls for twenty per cent wheat and eighty per cent buckwheat. The latter is gluten free, so wheat is added for that boost of strength and elasticity, though connoisseurs prefer a higher percentage of buckwheat for a strong flavour.

This explains the name of Nadai FujiSoba Ni-hachi (FujiSoba), a soba specialist with 125 outlets in Asia. Its Singapore outpost is located in Itadakimasu by PARCO, 100 AM, sharing the third level with fellow tenants Yakiniku Heijoen, Saboten, Ramen Keisuke Tori King, and more. A bold red pillared archway fronts the entrance; inside a panelled artwork of a brush stroke and flowering branch commands attention.

Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM
Nadai Fujisoba Ni-hachi 100AM

The menu offers quite a comprehensive range, from warm, dry to cold soba as well as appetisers and ice cream. The Special Truffles Dashi Maki Tamago with Club Japanese Sauce (S$15) featured bricks of fluffy French-truffle-stippled omelette set in a moat filled with dashi sauce, the latter made with shreds of crab meat and soy sauce. Next was the Dry Mentai Maze Soba (S$14). Instead of soup, maze soba is soused in a thick sauce — here it was mentaiko cream. I love the one-two punch of seasoned cod roe, a salty and savoury assault on the taste receptor, but I found FujiSoba’s to be a little too restrained, and hence downing the plate of bland noodles proved to be a herculean task. There was also the Hot Ni-Hachi Tempura Soba (S$20), whose tsuyu (noodle soup base) was a melange of dried bonito flakes and black kaeshi, a blend of sweet soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Special shout-out to the medley of chicken, kani, ebi, mushroom (and more) tempura, which I thought was rather well executed: crunchy and not too unctuous.

A sublime dish was the Deep-Fried Soba with Sizzling Seafood Spicy Sauce, specially created for Singaporeans, palimpsestic of the familiar seafood crispy noodles. The gnarled noodles were topped with a generous potpourri of green leaves and stalks, pork, squid, mushroom, then titivated by a moreish savoury sauce.

FujiSoba’s trait is its generosity, each serving huge. Head here for some slurp-worthy soba!

Sources: SaveurBon AppétitNPR; Japan Times; Wow! Japan; 

About Nadai FujiSoba Ni-hachi 

Address: Itadakimasu by PARCO, 100 AM, 100 Tras Street, #03-14

Operating hours: 11am – 3pm; 5:30pm – 10pm (Weekdays)

11am – 10pm (Weekends and public holidays)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

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