An unlikely pairing makes for delightful flavoring, and it’s vegetarian-friendly too!

Soba noodles, made of buckwheat, are a unique cuisine to Japan, but that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to eat them. Between yakisoba, kakesoba (hot soba), and zaru soba (cold soba), and between instant, fast food, home style, and Michelin qualityand with all of the different topping styles, you’re guaranteed to always be able to find a new flavor of soba wherever you go.

In fact, just last month, we tried out a completely unheard-of kind of cold soba that comes with tuna broth and is topped with maguro sashimi. The unusual flavor combination of this dish produced by the chefs at Maguro Soba really caught our attention, and when we were next in the Asakusa neighborhood looking for lunch, we found ourselves back at Maguro, hoping for another glorious new flavor exploration.

On this visit, we actually learned that Maguro Soba has special dishes that are catered towards foreign guests, since Asakusa is a pretty touristy area. So we decided to order one, and what came was a complete surprise.

The broth was white!

Normally, when eating zaru soba, you dip it into a brown and slightly translucent broth called tsuyu, which is usually made from bonito flakes, so we never expected to find a broth like this. We asked the owner, Mr. Utagawa, with whom we have been friendly since our first visit, about the broth. He said, “A lot of foreign guests are vegetarian, so we made this dish for them.”

Since bonito is a fish, and some vegetarians can’t eat fish, the two different broths that come with this vegetarian-friendly zaru soba are made of grated daikon and soy milk, respectively. We’ve eaten a kind of daikon broth before, but we’ve never seen anything with soy milk in it.

Do soy milk and soba noodles actually go together?! Looking at the bowls side by side, we were pretty dubious. Honestly, we weren’t sure if anything milky or creamy would go well with soba. It just…didn’t sound right. Was this really going to be good? Hesitantly we scooped up some noodles and dipped it in the broth…and slowly, slowly we brought it to our lips…

What? Hm? We can’t…we can’t really explain how, but somehow the soy milk becomes like a thick, creamy white sauce. It actually goes really well together with the noodles. When you dip them in, the milkiness of the soy milk gives the whole flavor a deepness and richness that’s never been seen in an ordinary bonito tsuyu.

It’s truly outstanding, in spite of not having any bonito in it at all. Furthermore, although it’s got a deep flavor, it’s not at all intense; in fact its lightness allows the mild, earthy flavors of the buckwheat noodles to come through strongly. It’s absolutely delicious! In fact we were so struck with how delicious the soy milk broth was that we almost forgot to try the daikon broth. We only had a few noodles left to eat with it, but it was really tasty too.

It goes to show that going vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to skimp on flavor. Although it may not be the most authentic flavor of Japanese soba noodles, this variety of zaru soba at least gives vegetarians a chance to try it out. Plus, if just noodles aren’t enough for you, Maguro Soba’s vegetarian menu also includes vegetable tempura that isn’t made using eggs, so you can have a full, vegetarian-friendly meal there.

It can be hard to find food in Japan if you have a special diet, and even harder to communicate those needs if you can’t speak the language. That’s why it’s great that restaurants like this, and the halal-friendly ramen shop that’s also located in Asakusa, exist in Tokyo, so that everyone can enjoy all the wonderful things that the city has to offer.

Restaurant information
Maguro Soba / まぐろそば
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-31-3
Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays

Photos © SoraNews24