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A highlight of visiting Japan is finding local noodle dishes. One of the regional specialty dishes of the Niigata Prefecture is hegi soba. Yuzawa has a couple of great restaurants where you can try this unique noodle.
What is hegi soba?
Soba noodles are typically made from buckwheat flour. However, Niigata (and most specifically, Uonuma) did not produce wheat, so the noodle recipe was adjusted in a creative way. While the area may lack wheat, it has plenty of a type of seaweed called funori. Hegi soba uses this funori seaweed instead of wheat for binding, resulting in a noodle that is firmer & more slippery than traditional soba.
Hegi soba is typically served in a wooden box, from which the hegi part of the name comes from. Within this wooden box, the noodles are portioned out into individual mouthfuls, so they can be easily dipped in mentsuyu (broth).
In addition to the broth, there are other condiments, including karashi (Japanese mustard) & negi (spring onion). It is also popular to eat tempura vegetables with hegi soba. Most restaurants will offer a combo that includes both. It’s impossible to go wrong with noodles & fried food.
Where to eat hegi soba in Yuzawa
Kojimaya is the best known hegi soba restaurant in Niigata. The main location is located in Tokamachi, however, there are several other locations scattered around the prefecture, including one in the Echigo-Yuzawa train station, near the sake tasting corner.
Kojimaya was busy with patrons eating noodles on an otherwise quiet Monday afternoon. I was seated quickly & given some tea while I reviewed the menu. Wanting to have what appeared to be the most popular choice, I opted for the cold hegi soba with tempura.
The presentation of the noodles in the wooden box is nice. More meals should be portioned out like this.
Once I was done eating the delicious noodles, I was brought a pitcher filled with soba-yu, which is the water the soba noodles are cooked in. Pour this hot water into your cup of broth, creating a hot soup to finish off the meal.
Address: 〒949-6101 Niigata, Minamiuonuma District, Yuzawa, 主水２４２７ (map)
Sobakodoro Shinbashi is another well-known hegi soba restaurant in Yuzawa. It’s so popular that it’s a common spot for tour groups seeking the best noodle experiences. This can be a bit of a problem for other potential diners who don’t time their arrival correctly & unknowingly find themselves not being seated *raises hand along with a large crowd of other visitors*.
If you can avoid the tour groups, Sobakodoro Shinbashi is a traditional hegi soba experience, with their maitake (mushroom) tempura being a specialty.
Address: 488-1 Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata 949-6101 (map)
Hegi soba is a tasty noodle dish that not only is unique, it’s also a great way to get your daily vegetables! When visiting Niigata, be sure to track some down.