Nishin Soba in a soba bowl, the herring fillets are floating in the dashi and partially covered by soba noodles and scallions

Nishin Soba

Nishin soba, a traditional Kyoto dish, has stood the test of time with its flavorful combination of pickled herring and soba noodles. Its origins in the Edo period continue to captivate taste buds, showcasing the rich culinary traditions of the region.

Nishin soba is a beloved and iconic dish that holds a special place in the heart of Kyoto, Japan. This delectable combination of soba noodles and pickled herring, known as nishin, has been cherished by locals and visitors alike for centuries. In this article, we will delve into the origins of this traditional dish, its key ingredients, and why it has become a famous dish in Kyoto.

First, let’s explore what nishin is and where it is harvested. Nishin, also called Pacific herring, is a small, silvery fish found abundantly in the waters surrounding Japan. These fish are known for their rich flavor and high nutritional value. They are caught during the autumn season when they are at their peak. The coastal regions of Japan, particularly the Sea of Japan, are renowned for their bountiful nishin populations. These areas include Aomori, Ishikawa, and of course, Kyoto.

The recipe for nishin soba has its roots in Kyoto’s vibrant culinary history. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, has long been regarded as a center of traditional Japanese cuisine. Nishin soba emerged as a popular dish in Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868). It was originally created as a way to preserve the abundant nishin catch during the autumn season. The herring is filleted, marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, and then pickled for several days. This process imparts a unique sweet and savory flavor to the fish, which pairs perfectly with the nutty taste of soba noodles.

Nishin soba has gained fame in Kyoto for its cultural significance and exquisite taste. The dish is often served during special occasions and festivals, reflecting the deep-rooted traditions of Kyoto’s culinary heritage. The combination of the tender, flavorful nishin and the firm, earthy soba noodles creates a harmonious balance of textures and flavors that captivates the senses. The dish is often garnished with fresh green onions, grated daikon radish, and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend) to add an extra kick of flavor.

Nishin Soba in a bowl on a round placemat. Flowers are in the background
One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of nishin soba in Kyoto is its ability to showcase the essence of the city’s local ingredients. Kyoto’s natural surroundings, including its pristine rivers and fertile farmlands, provide the perfect environment for cultivating high-quality ingredients. The locally sourced soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour, are known for their distinct nuttiness and chewy texture. When combined with the delicate flavors of the pickled nishin, it creates a memorable culinary experience that captures the essence of Kyoto’s gastronomy.

Nishin soba is a renowned dish in Kyoto that reflects the city’s rich culinary traditions. Its origins as a way to preserve the autumn catch of nishin have evolved into a cherished culinary delight. With its unique combination of pickled herring and soba noodles, nishin soba offers a delightful taste of Kyoto’s cultural heritage. Whether you’re visiting Kyoto or trying to recreate the flavors at home, nishin soba is a must-try dish that showcases the exquisite flavors and traditions of this ancient city.

Nishin Soba

Your recipe for nishin soba is a delightful combination of pickled herring and soba noodles, showcasing the rich culinary traditions of Kyoto. The dish originated during the Edo period as a way to preserve the abundant nishin catch and has since become a beloved specialty in the region. The herring is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, imparting a sweet and savory flavor. The soba noodles, made from locally sourced buckwheat flour, add a nutty and chewy texture to the dish. Garnished with fresh green onions, this nishin soba recipe is a must-try for anyone seeking to experience the unique flavors of Kyoto’s gastronomy.

PREP COOKING YIELD
5 minutes 30 minutes Makes 2 bowls
PREP 5 minutes
COOKING 30 minutes
YIELD Makes 2 bowls
Nishin Soba in a soba bowl, the herring fillets are floating in the dashi and partially covered by soba noodles and scallions

Ingredients:

  • 4 Marinated Dry Herring Fillets (Nishin)
  • 4 cups soba dashi (see below)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 packs of soba noodles

Soba Dashi

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 piece konbu (dried kelp), about 2×2 inches
  • 1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)

Ingredients for Nishin Soba and homemade Soba Dashi

Instructions:

Prepare the Soba Dashi

  • In a large pot, add water and the piece of konbu. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse into the water.
  • After 30 minutes, turn on the heat to medium and slowly bring the water to a simmer.
  • Just before the water starts to boil, remove the konbu from the pot. Leaving it in for too long can make the broth slimy.
  • Once the water starts to boil, add the katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Katsuobushi boiling over a low flame in a saucepan

  • Turn off the heat and let the katsuobushi sink to the bottom of the pot.
  • Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth to remove the bonito flakes. Press down on the flakes to extract as much flavor as possible.
  • Return the strained broth to the pot and add soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Stir well to combine.
  • Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. You can add more soy sauce for a stronger flavor or more mirin for sweetness.
  • Bring the broth back to a simmer and let it cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Prepare the Nishin Soba

  • Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Prepared Soba Noodles in a bowl

  • In a medium-sized pot, heat the soba dashi over medium heat until it comes to a gentle simmer.
  • Add the marinated herring fillets to the simmering dashi and let them heat through for about 2 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the herring fillets from the dashi and set them aside.
  • Divide the cooked soba noodles into two bowls.
  • Pour 2 cups of the soba dashi into each bowl, making sure to cover the soba noodles.
  • Place one whole marinated herring fillet on top of the noodles in each bowl.
  • Sprinkle each bowl with 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions.
  • Serve the Nishin Soba bowls hot, allowing the herring fillets to flavor the dashi and noodles as you eat.

Nishin Soba in a bowl on a round placemat

Notes:

  • You can adjust the amount of soba dashi and scallions according to your preference. This recipe serves two people.
  • Nishin can be purchased already marinated and cooked at most Japanese grocery stores in the refrigerated section.

 

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