Release | Ayumi Ohmiya
Sobadokoro Honoka - Have fresh soba at the production center, Etanbetsu in Asahikawa City
Did you know that Hokkaido produces about 40% of domestic soba production?
Japan has cool soba (buckwheat noodles) culture. Soba is very close to everyday life in Japan, as it is common to find at least one soba restaurant in every town.
However, surprisingly the domestic self-sufficiency rate of soba is just about 20%. We mostly rely on imported soba in reality.
But wait! Hokkaido is the number one production center of soba in Japan. Hokkaido covers about 40% of domestic production. Yes, there are many soba restaurants where you can taste 100% of Japan produced soba.
▲Buckwheat’s seeds produced in Etanbetsu. It is said the temperature gap of hot weather in summer, and severely cold weather in winter produces deep flavored soba.
In Hokkaido, Horokanai-Cho is the biggest producer and the second is Fukagawa City. The third biggest producer is Asahikawa City. These three cities and towns are located almost next to each other. Which means, we can say that around Asahikawa is the production center of soba in Hokkaido. You should taste the 100% domestic produced soba noodles if you have a chance to visit Asahikawa, right?
Find the soba flower fields at Etanbetsu in early summerEtanbetsu area is in the north of Asahikawa City, and you can find pastoral and picturesque sceneries of many pastures surrounded by soba fields.
▲Can you see a silo over the soba field? This is one of the familiar sceneries in Etanbetsu area. (The picture is provided by JA Asahikawa)
Farmers seed soba in early June, and it blooms white flowers in about a month. Etanbetsu will be covered with white flowers all over the places and looks very beautiful! After the flowers, it bears seeds and can be harvested from late August at the earliest.
▲When flowers end and seeds turn brown, it is almost the harvest season.
September, when wind feels nice, is the season to taste new soba of the year.
Taste the soba noodles from Etanbetsu at “Sobadokoro Honoka,” the directly owned restaurant by JA“Asagao” is the JA Asahikawa’s agricultural product market near Nagayama Station, which is the fourth stop from JR Asahikawa Station via the local train. The market is very popular as there is always a long queue even before opening hours. “Sobadokoro Honoka” is a restaurant built together with the market.
▲Look for the sign of JA Asahikawa along the Daisetsu Kokudou (National Route no. 39).
▲The restaurant is built together with the agricultural market, and during the opening hours of the market, you can also enter the restaurant from the market. The restaurant is big and bright.
▲You can find freshly cropped vegetables every morning in the agricultural market next to the restaurant.
They only use the second powder which has a great balance of flavor and texture to make the flavor of soba stand out. They mix 80% buckwheat powder and 20% flour to provide Ni-Hachi soba. They use local vegetables cropped from neighborhood farms for menus such as tempura, salad, and pickles. Customers love their local production for local consumption policies.
They succeeded to preserve soba seeds for a long time with natural snow!They started to produce “naturally matured soba preserved in snow storage” from 2015. They utilized the geographical conditions of the Etanbetsu district where they have plenty of snow, to preserve harvested soba seeds containers by covering it completely with snow and store is at the specified temperature (0 to 2 degrees) and humidity (80 to 85%) until snow melts.
▲They work on to provide information about soba noodles in various ways; one of them is to give descriptions about the difference of buckwheat powders by how they grind soba seeds.
Vegetables also taste great! I recommend ordering their set menuI recommend “Vegetable tempura and zaru soba set” 830 yen (including tax), the menu you can feel their local production for local consumption policy. It comes with cold zaru soba noodles, five kinds of local vegetable tempura, onigiri made with locally produced rice, and salad. This set is surely good value for money.
▲Vegetable tempura and zaru soba set. Onigiri uses locally produced rice Nanatsuboshi.
Other than that, I recommend “Kakiage Soba” (single order is 700 yen and set is 800 yen, both include tax) which comes with fresh shrimp and vegetable mixed tempura and various seasonal menus.
Soba produced in Hokkaido is said to be delicious because of the massive gap in temperature during summer and winter. Why don’t you stop by to have some soba noodles when you visit Asahikawa?
Text / Hokkaido Likers writer Ayumi Omiya
Photo / Koki Yoshida