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Masterful Soba Noodles in Bangkok


The soba expert at this restaurant in Bangkok will have you slurping for joy. By VERONICA INVEEN.

Published on Jul 27, 2017

 

MEET MIZUHO NAGAO, a chef with a distinguished soba lineage. His family runs a soba restaurant in Fukuoka and his father is one of Japan's top soba chefs, awarded accolades from the imperial family. After finishing school and getting his soba-making license (a certification required of all soba chefs) Mizuho stepped into the family kitchen where he spent 13 years mastering the noodle dish. In 2007 he started his own restaurant in Fukuoka, and now he's bringing his soba skills to Bangkok with the opening of Soba Factory in the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen's Park hotel.

Mizuho Nagao
Soba master, chef Mizuho Nagao. Courtesy of Soba Factory.

As you enter the izakaya-styled restaurant, you're greeted by the smiley face of Mizuho working on his authentic Fukuoka-style soba in the open kitchen. "I've adjusted the tsuyu sauce," Mizuho says, "but otherwise my process and the noodles are just the same as in Japan." He serves two types of soba: one that is 100-percent Hokkaido-sourced buckwheat and another that is 80 percent. More buckwheat translates to coarser texture and stronger flavor. The 80-percent soba is to satisfy those who prefer a chewier consistency. From fresh dough, he slices the noodles by hand as swift as a fan blade to exactly 1.2 millimeters square, and serves it al dente. Hot or cold, it should be slurped up quickly so the noodles don't dry out, or get saturated by the broth, which overwhelms the flavor. "Japanese people don't chew," Mizuho scolds me as I try to delicately eat his soup. He demonstrates the art of shamelessly slurping not one but three times to hammer the point home, then tells me to wash down the meal with one of their premium sakes or a glass of crisp white wine.

Soba Factory
Live cooking station. Courtesy of Soba Factory.

Venture beyond the bowl with a serving of yakitori, which is grilled to perfection over a charcoal fire. Yakitori skewers are loaded with organic local chicken and kushiyaka skewers are heavy with pork, seafood or house-made tofu. The melt-in-your mouth tsukune, a combination of minced chicken, chopped cartilage and spices, slathered with yakitori sauce, should be dipped in raw egg yolk for a bit of sweetness.

With the help of his cousin, Yuta Nagao, who came with him from Japan, Mizuho makes three batches of hand-kneaded noodles per day. "You need to be heavy to knead the dough," Mizuho tells me, as we watch Yuta pound the mixture of flour and water with all his might. "If he loses weight, he can only make a small amount of noodles." Well, then, Yuta, to your health.

Tempura soba
At Soba Factory, a bowl of the namesake noodles topped with shrimp tempura. Courtesy of Soba Factory.

 


Soba Factory at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen's Park; marriott.com; soba from Bt245.

 

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Soba master, chef Mizuho Nagao. Courtesy of Soba Factory.
  • Courtesy of Soba Factory.
  • Courtesy of Soba Factory.
  • Soba noodle and tempura set. Courtesy of Soba Factory.
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