Traditional Asian cuisine is well known for many of its noodle dishes, and wide variety of noodles of different sizes can be found in Asian supermarkets or grocery stores.
Somen and soba noodles are japanese noodles that are slightly of the same thickness.
Both noodles are made up of thin individuals strands that are usually packed together in a bundle and tied with a band.
These varieties of noodles are used in many traditional Japanese dishes and are often substituted for each other.
Although somen and soba noodles may appear so similar, these two varieties of noodles have distinctive characteristics which we are going to discuss in this post.
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Difference between somen and soba noodles
Somen and soba noodles are used similarly in traditional Japanese cuisine where they are often served chilled and eaten together which a dipping sauce made from soy sauce.
However, there are a couple of differences when both noodles are compared.
The main difference between somen and soba noodles is that somen noodles is made from 100 percent wheat flour while soba noodles is made primarily from buckwheat.
Other ways both noodle varieties differ include:
The technique used in the preparation of somen noodles is different from soba noodles.
The wheat dough used for making somen noodles is hand-pulled into thin long strands which are then dried before they are cut, while the dough for soba noodles are rolled flat, folded and cut into individual strands.
Soba noodles are light brown in color and are slightly thicker compared to somen noodles, somen noodles on the other hand are white in color.
Soba noodles have a nutty flavor while somen noodles have a mild flavor.
The buckwheat used in making soba noodles is a source of complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids, while wheat flour lacks some of the essential amino acids, and it is not a source of complete protein.
What are somen noodles?
Somen noodles are made from wheat flour and are shape into thin long strands which are less than 1.3 mm in diameter.
These noodles are white in color, mildly flavored and often available dried.
Somen noodles are Japanese in origin and are often served in cold dishes but could also be used in other dishes like soups.
How somen noodles are made
The traditional process of making somen noodles involves making a dough from wheat flour and salted water, after which the dough is stretched into thin long ropes by hand.
The ropes are then brushed with vegetable oil and stretched further, each of the ropes are stretched until they are thin and reaching lengths of up to 12 feet.
Stretching the dough helps in the development of gluten within the wheat flour, and it is what gives somen noodles its chewy consistency.
The vegetable oil coating on the somen noodles prevents the noodles from drying out in between stretches.
The noodles are then dried and often aged for a period of time before cutting them to smaller lengths and packaging them.
Culinary preparations of somen noodles
Somen noodles are often served chilled with a soy-based dipping sauce called tsuyu.
They are first prepared by simmering them, then draining them, after which they are put in an ice-water bath to chill them.
Somen noodles could also be served in a hot soup known as nyumen.
In another somen dish known as nagashi somen, cold somen noodles are eaten with chopsticks from a bamboo shoots.
What are soba noodles?
Soba noodles are thin noodles that are primarily made from buckwheat flour although small amounts of wheat flour is added to the mixture
The word “soba” means buckwheat in Japanese
Buckwheat is naturally gluten free, however, soba noodles are often made up of some amount amount of wheat flour which is not gluten free.
Soba noodles are light brown in color and they have a nutty flavor.
They are often found dry but they can also be fresh.
Nutritionally, soba noodles are packed with protein and they contain all the essential amino acids. They also contain other nutrients like fiber, iron and zinc.
How soba noodles are made
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, but because buckwheat flour is difficult to work with alone, some amount of wheat flour is often added to make soba.
Traditional soba noodles may contain up to 100 percent buckwheat flour, however, because buckwheat lacks gluten, the noodles could break easily.
Wheat flour contains the protein gluten, which makes the noodles easier to work with, adding wheat flour when making soba also makes the noodles cheaper to produce.
The buckwheat flour, wheat flour and water are combined to form a dough which is then rolled out into a flat sheet and cut into thin strands.
The noodles can be cooked fresh or dried. The fresh soba noodles are popular in Japan.
Preparation of soba noodles
Soba noodles can also be used in a number of preparations including soups, salads and stir fry. It could be used as a main dish or as a side dish.
These noodles are served either hot or cold. They are particularly used in traditional Japanese cold dishes, where they are first simmered, drained and chilled in water and ice.
They can also be served in hot soups or broth together with other ingredients.
Soba and somen noodles are commonly served chilled with a soy-based dipping sauce.
These Japanese noodles are also used widely in Asian cuisine to prepare salads, soups and stir-fry.
They may be prepared similarly but they have different qualities especially when it comes to their flavor and texture.