Several things came together to inspire me to make this dish. First the cover picture on the cookbook “Takashi’s Noodles” triggered the memory of a similar dish I occasionally had for lunch at a Soba restaurant in downtown Sapporo. Second, it has been really hot and muggy here–the kind of weather that calls for cold soba. In Japan, soba is a very popular lunch item and there are many restaurants specializing in soba and they do a brisk business during lunch. The combination of cold soba topped with natto 納豆 is rather classic and called “Natto soba” 納豆蕎麦 which was one of my favorites. I made this as a “shime” dish one night and found out my wife never had this before.
This is not a recipe per se since this is just a plate of soba and various garnishes which happened to include natto. A raw egg yolk usually accompanies this dish. Raw or undercooked eggs here in the U.S. are always iffy because of the potential for Salmonella contamination. We use “free-ranging” and “organic” brown eggs for dishes that are not fully cooked or have runny yolks. We do not know, however, if there is scientific or statistical evidence that these eggs are indeed safer than regular supermarket white eggs. (P.S. I found an article indicating that there is a lower risk of salmonella contamination in organic and free ranging eggs, although the risk is not zero. I also found that pasteurized shell eggs* are going to be available more widely in very near future.) We have been eating soft boiled eggs, poached eggs, and sunny side ups for many years and so far, (knock on wood) we have not experienced any ill effects. This time I used egg yolks from “Onsen tamago” 温泉卵, which I made from the brown eggs. This is a very peculiar Japanese way of cooking eggs, which, I am sure, I can describe in more details in a separate post.
I cooked dried soba noodle as per package instructions and washed them in cold running water and drained. I diluted a bottled noodle (concentrated) sauce in cold water to my liking. Natto was prepared my usual way. Other garnishes include thinly sliced (on bias) scallion , dried bonito flakes, thin strips of nori and an egg yolk from the onsen tamago. Just before eating, I poured on the dipping sauce. I took a dab of wasabi and worked it in by mixing all the items well. This is a perfect dish for hot summer days. By the way, my wife, who is not a card-carrying member of the Natto fan club, liked this dish.