While similar dishes are available across other nations, for instance, South Korea’s Naengmyeon, Japan has arguably the largest selection of cold noodles to aid in beating the scorching hot summer. All kinds of noodles, from Chinese-style to Udon and famous women, are consumed cold. Soba noodles might have the longest tradition of being consumed cold.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), food stalls catering for the residents of Edo (the early name of Tokyo) began to pop up across the city. Edo was home to many single males due to the samurai that were sent to the homes of the regional rulers and generally stayed away from their families. Single males from different social classes who traveled to the capital city to make a fortune also increased the number of diners who usually didn’t cook for themselves.

The three most popular kinds of food stalls in the latter part of the Edo period were those that offered tempura, sushi, and soba. There’s a saying, “Udon in the west, soba in the east “Udon in the west, soba in the east” which means that the residents in those cities in western Japan like Osaka and Kyoto prefer a thicker udon, and the inhabitants of Edo, who were renowned for their impatience, favored the more quick cooking of soba.

Warm soba dishes like Kakesoba(soba simmered by boiling the hot broth) and tempura soba were consumed all year round in the summer heat. However, cold dishes like zarusoba (soba served in flat, sieve-like plates and drizzled with sauce) were much more sought-after during the summer months. Soba was usually filled with garnishes, including the Takumi (aromatic veggies that boosted the taste of the noodles). There was an opinion that Takumi, aside from adding flavor, prevented stomach ailments.

In recent times citrus fruits have been fashionable alternatives to contemporary Japanese Takumi. For this particular recipe, I’m using limes and Thai fish sauce to give it a little Southeast Asian twist, but you could also use other citruses, like Kabosuand.

Serves 2

Time to prepare: 30 mins

Cook time: 10 minutes, plus cooling

Feel free to add your most-loved citrus fruit if you are having a blast with your ideas. | MAKIKO ITOH


* 200 grams of dry soba noodles

* one 10-centimeter piece of dry kombu Kelp

Five grams of Katsuobushi(bonito flake) as dried ago(flying fish) flake

* 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

One tablespoon of mirin

* one teaspoon of sugar

Two small limes (or similar citrus)

* Daikon to taste

• Green onion to taste

* three cherry tomatoes

* Fresh Coriander for taste (optional)

1. Soak the kombu in 600 milliliters of water for 30 mins in a saucepan. Bring the water to a mild boil, add the dried ago or katsuobushi, and shut off the flame immediately. You can strain the liquid once the katsuobushi or dried ago has sunk towards the bottom of the pot.

2. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, and sugar. Then stir on low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate until cool.

3. Slice your limes thinly, grate the daikon, then mince some green onions. Slice the tomatoes into half and remove the leaves from Coriander’s stalks.

4. Boil the soba noodles for approximately 6 minutes or as per the instructions on the package. The noodles must be cooked to perfection but not completely firm. Then strain and cool by applying the noodles strands under cold water. Then drain well.

5. Pour the soup into bowls and then add the soba. For additional cooling, add frozen cubes of ice to the soup. Serve with lime juice, daikon-grated green onions, cherry tomatoes, and coriander leaves. Mix thoroughly before eating.