Noodles are one of the traditional staple foods in Japan. In particular, soba, the Japanese name of buckwheat noodle, is extremely liked by most Japanese. Compared to other noodles, such as udon and ramen, it seems that there is a longer history background and deeper culture about soba. Even though the noodle actually was originated in China, Japanese had developed the noodle to be a national cuisine through hundreds of years. Nowadays, the customers still can taste the hand-made soba noodle in most Japanese restaurants. Soba noodle is usually served as a cold dish. The noodle is placed on a bamboo mat, served with a dipping sauce, and garnished with green onions and some horseradish (Ashkenazi and Jacob 38).
Compared to other common noodles, soba noodle is healthier. Because soba is mainly made from wheat flour and buckwheat flour, the noodle does not contain too much gluten. Also, soba noodle has more minerals and fewer calories. Soba has a different flavor with other noodles, but it tastes great. Thus, soba noodle is greatly popular in Japan. The history, function, and cultural significance make soba has been the national food in Japan for hundreds of centuries.
The main ingredient of soba noodle, buckwheat, is a grain-like brown triangular seed. Buckwheat actually does not belong to the family of the common cereal such as wheat and rice. It belongs to the Polygonaceae family (Fu 2008 p893).
The origin of buckwheat is finally confirmed through several centuries. The conclusion that buckwheat is originated in the northern of China has existed for more than a century (Ohnishi 1990 p5). However, Russian scientists insisted that the origin of buckwheat might be southern China (Ohnishi 1998 p123). In addition, the main distribution of Fagopyrum esculentum, ancestor of common buckwheat, in southern China also indicates that the common buckwheat is originated in southern China (Ohnishi 1998 p129).
Now, the archeological studies still do not prove the full cultivation history of buckwheat. However, according to the archeological research, it is clear that buckwheat has been cultivated at a village near east Tibet since 2600 B.C (Ohnishi 1998 p131). Also, in Hanyan, a city of China, there were some archeological remains about buckwheat cultivation from 200 B.C (Ohnishi 1998 p131). In Japan, the cultivation of buckwheat started from the end of the Jomon Period (Ohnishi 1998 p131).
Buckwheat is widely planted in the world nowadays; in particular, buckwheat is a main crop in mountainous regions. The plant is actually more adapt to the northern hemisphere environment because it is a short-season plant (Hatcher 2011 p490). In addition, buckwheat is often cultivated widely in those northern areas with unfavorable agricultural conditions as a relief crop (Hall 1935)
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