LIT­TLE BIG SE­CRETS

A se­cre­tive 11- seater soba place opens up a lit­tle

Cebu Living - - Front Page - By DENISE DANIELLE AL­CAN­TARA Images by JIM UBALDE

Soba is gluten-free. Made from buck­wheat flour, these spaghetti-like strings have less calo­ries and a higher fiber con­tent than tra­di­tional pasta. It is also a good source of pro­tein and helps lower choles­terol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. This noo­dle can be served hot or cold with a dip­ping sauce, and its stock is made from dried fish sans oil—a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence from the rich and oily broth used in ra­men.

But where to get this healthy Ja­panese noo­dle soup in Cebu, you ask? In a non­de­script cor­ner in Man­daue, a com­pact 11-seater restau­rant serves freshly made soba enough for 11 din­ers ev­ery meal. Owned by chef Hiroyuki Sakata, who trained in Ja­pan two years ago to learn how to pre­pare his fa­vorite meal, Soba Ka­makura opened in Fe­bru­ary to in­tro­duce and share this uniquely Ja­panese din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

I sit on the five-seater bar, where I have a full view of Sakata and his as­sis­tants car­ry­ing out the gen­er­a­tions-old art of soba-mak­ing. Car­ry­ing a wide, wooden bowl, Sakata walks out of the back kitchen and into the open kitchen. He is the only one who knows the proper steps to make soba; ev­ery­one else in the kitchen is there to as­sist him.

He fills the bowl with buck­wheat flour and adds wa­ter, then tells us we can start tak­ing pic­tures at this point. He kneads the flour with ten­der­ness and force, and spins the bowl at a con­sis­tent speed. Many of our ques­tions about his tech­niques are an­swered with “It’s a se­cret.” At one point, as Sakata reaches for his wa­ter spritzer, he asks the pho­tog­ra­pher to cease shoot­ing; this part of the process is also a se­cret. He con­tin­ues to ex­plain and em­pha­size, though, the health ben­e­fits of soba as the color of the flour trans­forms from white to brown.

Sakata shares that he has di­rect con­tact with a farmer in Hokkaido, Ja­pan who pro­cesses buck­wheat flour through round stone milling at 600 grams per hour. On the menu, it is men­tioned that the restau­rant uses only pes­ti­cide- free buck­wheat flour, stress­ing the in­valu­able work in­volved in ev­ery stage of its pro­cess­ing, from farmer to chef.

Soba Ka­makura of­fers five kinds of soba: Ar­ti­san ( plain), Unagi ( with grilled eel), Niku ( with your choice of thin- sliced U. S. beef or pork), Ebi ( with shrimp tem­pura), and Tanuki ( with tem­pura bits). All can be or­dered ala carte or as a set, with four ad­di­tional ap­pe­tiz­ers and Ja­panese sweets.

Make sure to se­cure a reser­va­tion be­fore com­ing in since there is lim­ited seat­ing. When asked if Sakata has plans to ex­pand and open a big­ger restau­rant, he an­swers no. He is the sole per­son who can make the soba, as he is yet to find an ap­pren­tice in­ter­ested and wor­thy enough to learn the tra­di­tion.

You can reg­u­larly find in­stant cup soba noo­dles in your neigh­bor­hood Ja­panese gro­cery stores. They could make you sus­pect their claims for be­ing a healthy snack, though, given that not all ready-to-eat packs have 100 per­cent buck­wheat. As some are made with reg­u­lar or re­fined flour, it’s best to al­ways check the la­bel be­fore pur­chas­ing. Soba Ka­makura. E.C. Bldg., Green­hills Rd., Ca­suntin­gan, Man­daue City. (032) 417-2481. 0916-719-2512. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mon­day to Satur­day.

FRESHLY MADE SOBA

HIROYUKI SAKATA MAKES FRESH SOBA NOO­DLES FROM BUCK­WHEAT FLOUR (OP­PO­SITE PAGE). CU­CUM­BERS WITH UNAGI (BE­LOW)

AND SHIMEJI MUSH­ROOMS IN SOBA BROTH (EX­TREME BE­LOW).

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