Hana ni Kuru

9 Nov

Whenever I have soba noodles, I am brought back to being a child at my grandpa’s summer cabin in the mountains of Nagano. We used to walk down the curvy roads until we reached the main town in Karuizawa, where we would we would have (in my opinion) the best soba in the world. This restaurant was a local legend: Japanese style with everything made out of wood (most of which painted black), and each table had smalls jar of diced green onions, tōgarashi, and ground daikon. Recently, I’ve heard that they have become so successful, they’ve expanded to another location. Good for them.

Before serving the food, we would receive a small plate, a grater, and a newly picked stick of green horseradish, with which we would grind our own fresh wasabi to be dumped in the broth in large amounts because it was so good.

When the noodles arrived seasoned with shredded nori on their bamboo boxes, I would  immediately dig in, grabbing huge clumps with my chopsticks and practically baptizing them in my perfectly mixed broth before consumption. Once we had finished, my grandpa would request the soba yu, the hot water that the buckwheat was boiled in, and we would pour it from a ceramic kettle into our broth to dilute and heat it. We would then drink it like tea.

Whenever the wasabi was too strong for me to bear and I found myself clutching the top of my head, my grandpa used to say, “Hana ni kuru. Sore ga ii.” (It’s a good thing it comes to the nose). He was convinced soba yu had medicinal properties, and still is to this day. Because of these memories of carefree summers in a beautiful place, soba is my favorite food.

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