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Situated Near Naha Airport, [Toraya] Offers Delightfully Tasty Homemade Mokutan (charcoal) Soba Noodles
post : 2020.04.04 07:00
Do you know what Mokutan Soba is? The word Mokutan (meaning charcoal) can be read as Mokuhai, or in Uchina-guchi (or the local Okinawan language), it is referred to as Mokkai. The meaning is the same, Mokutan or charcoal, the ashes from burned wood. Today, Okinawa Soba noodles are made with flour, salt, and “Kansui” which is lye water. Before the war, though, Okinawa’soba noodles were made with “Aku” instead of Kansui, which was the purified water found at the surfaces of water with ash submerged in it. This is the origin of Mokutan Soba. Since this is a painstaking process, there are very few soba restaurants that serve Mokutan Soba nowadays. Among the very few Mokutan Soba restaurants, the closest to Naha Airport is Jikaseimen (homemade) Mokutan Soba, Toraya.
Toraya opened its doors in September of 2006, and is about ten minutes from Naha Airport. It’s just ten minutes away on foot from Oroku Station, which is two stations away from the Naha Airport Station when getting there by Okinawa’s monorail system, the Yui Rail.
Inside the shop are counter seats as well as Japanese style floor seats. They get a lot of off-island visitors and of course, many local customers. The simple menu shown here adds to the anticipation.
The “Hon Soki Soba” is a Mokutan Soba noodle soup which comes with a side dish of boned Soki pork ribs. Their “Okinawa Soba” is a Mokutan Soba with Sanmai-Niku, or juicy slices of stewed fatty pork. Their set menus are popular on weekdays, especially the “Chikina Jako-nose Gohan” which is a rice bowl with small fish and Chikina, or leaf mustard, a local Okinawan vegetable that is very popular and is known in mainland Japan as Karashina.
As you take a seat, the staff will bring you a jar of complimentary pickles. The small dishes to serve the pickles are Yachimun, or local Okinawan pottery. While you help yourself to the pickles and appreciate the beauty of the Yachimun, take a look around the shop. You’ll find that they use Yachimun for the chopstick container, toothpick holder, and even the plant containers in the shop. The wonderful Yachimun pieces used nonchalantly across the interior of the place is unique and creates a wonderful, Okinawan atmosphere.
Below is a charming little noodle maker. The owner and operator of the shop says they used this machinery to initially practice making Mokutan Soba.
The owner also shares that they learned to make Mokutan Soba completely on their own. They burned wood and made ash, submerged this ash in water, and after a few days, they came up with the Aku. After this process, they finally begin the noodle making steps. The owner does the whole process alone, saying, “For regular soba noodles, you can make them in a few hours, but to make Mokutan Soba, it takes about four to five days, which includes the Aku-making process.”
Behind the wooden door labeled “Menba” is the noodle making area and it was off-limits to outsiders, and the owner says, “The noodle making area is a very important area. This is where it all begins.” As mentioned before, there are very few restaurants that can actually make Mokutan Soba, and most of them are family-run establishments, and so, the noodle-making process is a well-protected secret. Toraya’s Mokutan Soba was created by the owner through countless trials and errors, and without guidance nor teachings from anybody. The owner carefully chose the words to explain it all, and it was clear that the passion that goes into the making of the Mokutan Soba was great.
The above photo shows the “Okinawa Soba” with the Sanmainiku pork slices, and their most popular rice dish, the Chikina Jako-nose Gohan. Both are served in wonderfully Yachimun pottery pieces with a proud presence. The beautiful white of the Mokutan Soba noodles is enhanced in the transparent bonito broth. I took one bite, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “The noodles are delicious!” The soup was delightfully light, and the noodles were deliciously slippery and chewy. I finished the whole bowl in no time. The popular Chikina Jako-nose Gohan was also wonderful, with the perfect touch of salt to go well with the rice.
We hope you’ll visit and try the delicious Mokutan Soba at Toraya at least once. They’re open until midnight on New Year’s Eve, so if you’re in Okinawa around that time of the year, how about stopping by Toraya near Naha Airport to welcome the New Year?
Homemade Noodles, Mokutan Soba Toraya
Address: 1F Kinjo Bldg., 1-5-14 Akamine, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours. 11:00 to 17:00
Closed: Tuesdays *Open if Tuesday falls on a holiday.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Mika Asaka