Since leaving her post at Miyabi 45th earlier this year, chef Mutsuko Soma only offers up her handmade soba at her occasional Kamonegi popups. But on New Year's Eve she preps those sought-after buckwheat noodles—a customary food for welcoming a near year in Japan—for pickup at the Phinney sweets shop Tokara.
Eating toshikoshi soba (which translates roughly to "crossing the year") is a time-honored New Year’s Eve tradition in Japan that signifies longevity and prosperity. These days, Soma says, the toshikoshi soba is served as a midnight snack, so families—including eager children allowed to stay up past their bedtime—can slurp the cherished noodles to the tune of the Joya no Kane, a series of temple bells rung at the arrival of the new year. The chewing and slurping sounds that one naturally exudes whilst enjoying soba are called “tsuru tsuru kame kame,” an onomatopoeia that combines the words for crane and turtle, both of which represent good fortune.
Soma makes her noodles in her home studio in a traditional style called ni-hachi, meaning they're mostly buckwheat flour. The pre-order noodles are apportioned for two ($18) and will be available for pick-up at Tokara on December 30 and 31, alongside limited supplies of the shop's wagashi, or Japanese confections. In the Japanese tradition, slurp your soba cold with dipping sauce—perhaps topped with garnish of green onions, grated daikon, and wasabi—or with a side of tempura.
Given the multitude of corner soba shops in Japan, securing New Year's Eve soba is pretty easy; Seattle's soba supply is virtually nonexistent: Dry soba can be found on the shelves of Asian grocery stores like Uwajimaya, but Soma is the only chef on the West Coast delivering the traditionally fresh, handcrafted buckwheat noodles central to celebrating the new year.
For Soma, 2017 will bring more popups and private cooking lessons through Kamonegi, each one, she says, a "baby step" toward opening another restaurant. Hopefully prepping all that toshikoshi soba will bring her good fortune and prosperity on that front.